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One Month Down, Eleven to Go: What Lies Ahead for Esports in 2021

From Tarot cards to fortune cookies, people love to try and see the future. Even sciences like meteorology function as a means to predict what tomorrow will bring; should you pack an umbrella or a pair of sunglasses? A scarf or a pair of swimming trunks? Having an educated guess as to what may be just around the corner is a useful way to avoid anxiety about the unknown and to prepare for what’s to come.

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After an unpredictable year like 2020, people have had enough surprises. So, with January just about over and the rest of 2021 fast approaching, any sense of what we can expect over the next eleven months is much-appreciated. Luckily, just as we’ve developed ways to forecast the weather, looking at the market can help us form some solid educated guesses about what the rest of the year just may look like for the esports and gaming industry. 

Image Courtesy of Newzoo

A recent article by SportsPro processed and presented data provided by a study from Newzoo painting a picture of what lay ahead for the esports and gaming industry. Newzoo, billed as “the world’s most trusted source for games and esports analytics and market research,” managed to utilize their analytics to compile a number of trends forecasts for the year to come.

First, based on the continued success and growth of the gaming and esports industry as well as the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s looking like traditional sports will continue to venture into the world of gaming and esports. It’s predicted that there will be “further innovation from traditional sports as they expand their activities in the esports space.”

2020 was a highly atypical year which threw off a lot of industries and markets. However, due to the virtual nature of gaming and esports, there was a significant boom which lead to “Sports organizations spen[ding] 2020 accelerating their esports efforts.” That’s only going to continue in the future. 

Image Courtesy of PSCI

While traditional sports will be following the lead of esports moving forward, a glance at the market would indicate that esports will be moving away from the precedent established by traditional sports. While in the past, functions of the gaming and esports industry were based off the legitimacy found in old-school sporting institutions, the future lies in a fresh path inspired by the key idea of ‘diversification.’ What that means from a marketplace perspective is that “organizations will continue to branch out… with movement toward lifestyle brand positioning and content creator strategies continuing.”

Instead of adhering to “models established in traditional sport[s],” the esports and gaming industry will commit to strategies which allow for them “to diversify income streams.” That means “transcending esports and entering into pop culture” by “signing content creators” all in order to acquire “new assets to sell to sponsors and provide further leverage when negotiating with platforms, especially regarding exclusivity deals.”

As 2021 continues to roll along, Newzoo predicts the current trend of mobile gaming rising into “the upper echelon of competitive gaming” will only continue. Furthermore, trends triggered by the pandemic, specifically a shift from international competitions to regional tournaments, will continue on. This may mean that “these once internationally focused competitions will permanently shift to a regional league-driven format… even after lockdown restrictions are lifted.”

Photo Credit: Henry Horenstein/Getty Images

Furthermore, one prediction for the esports and gaming industries comes down to a basic human truth: people age. As time goes on, age demographics shift, and a younger generation of gamers and consumers want different things. As Newzoo has found, “younger audiences continue to turn away from traditional TV in [favor] of curated viewing experiences found on the likes of Twitch.”

As such, there will be continued demand for content beyond the traditional sort of gaming streams the industry has become known for. As the Sportspro article clarifies, this well may lead to “content platforms centred on gaming evolv[ing] to accommodate a wider variety of live content. The report expects non-gaming content to become even more popular this year, and companies have already started doubling down on it for 2021.” 

While no one can tell the future with one-hundred percent accuracy, Newzoo’s predictions are based on the kind of data analysis which makes sense. Looking at the year we’re leaving behind, many of these trends can already be seen starting to play themselves out, and it’s only January. We can only hope that 2021 will be less of a rollercoaster than 2020 was, in which case a little predictability will sure to be much appreciated. 

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