Is eSports going mainstream?
This article discusses the popularity of e-sports in terms of demand, investment, market and the need for cantonal support to meet the new demands of today's youth.
eSports also known as electronic sports is basically playing video games competitively.
eSport is not new, as allegedly the first ever eSports event took place at Sandford University in the United States in 1972 where players competed on Spacewar.
However, eSports today is a growing market attracting the interests of many venture capitalists, private equity firms, brands, broadcasters, professional players, organizers, viewers and more.
Competitive video gaming can be a lucrative career.
Matthew Syed in his book “Bounce – the science of success” argues that in order to be successful at any particular subject matter you need to have practiced that subject matter for a minimum of 10 000 hours. Well, most of all competitive eSports players have played well above 10 000 hours and a few of them have gone to become professional players.
According to Newzoo, a gaming analytical firm, eSports is expected to generate revenues of USD 1.598B by 2023; translating into +15.5% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) between 2018 and 2023.
A summary of the market can be found in the infographic above. Deloitte published a report stating that over USD 4.5 billion was invested in eSports in 2018 alone.
This is not surprising when you look at the amount of eyeballs eSports attracts.
Twitch, owned by Amazon, which focuses primarily on streaming video games had 9 billion hours watched back in 2019 and 17 billion in 2020 according to StreamElements and analytics partner Arsenal.gg
In Switzerland private eSports initiatives are on the rise. Mysports, a UPC venture, launched last August the first ever Swiss Ice Hockey electronic league. A few Swiss football clubs have also launched their respective eSports teams, and companies like TCS, Migros, Swisscom, UPC, Raiffeisen and more have started to invest in the Swiss eSports landscape. Swisscom is also offering Swiss schools a Gaming and eSports course, which given that they have much to gain from this growing industry is an obvious investment.
On the public sector front, the Federal government does not recognize eSports as a sport for the time being, and as most governments it has been playing catch up when it comes to regulating the online ecosystem. The government has issued a draft Federal Act on the Protection of Minors in respect of Films and Video Games (also known as “the Youth Protection Act”) aimed to protect minors from accessing adult content. Once implemented (if not amended) this new legislation will require, among other things, films and video games made available on audiovisual media, public events and through VOD (video on demand) services to implement age controls and publish an age label.
There is still some perception in society that video games are violent and/or somehow promote violence among today’s youth. That is factually inaccurate. Video games are not more violent than films or TV series and not all video games, like not all films or TV series, depict violence.
Video games have proven to help children learn how to read, help young adults learn English as many games have both their text instructions and dialogues only in English. It has helped gamers increase their problem-solving skills as all games are de facto problem-solving challenges. For those that find it difficult to connect and make friends, games have helped create meaningful social connections, and much more.
Early last year, the World Health Organization supported a campaign called #PlayApartTogether, which joined a large number of video game publishers, to encourage people to use video games as a way to maintain physical distance while having social contact with others.
Economically speaking, the global industry is much more important than the movie and music industries combined. So why not provide this industry the same favorable support at the cantonal level given to the movie and music sectors?
We live in a society where most Gen Z (Generation Z), a generation practically born online amounting to approximately 18% of the Swiss population, are for the most part playing, socializing, shopping and learning online.
The Swiss eSports Federation, which groups 37 Swiss eSports organizations, as well as local associations like Noetic, Hall of Games and more are working hard and with limited ressources to promote healthy and safe practices within the sector.
One canton that is today recognizing eSports as a full sport is Geneva; and another city promoting eSports is St-Gallen.
The roll-out of 5G will give mobile eSports a boost and more people will be playing, consuming live-streams and videos, and attend live events. eSports is going mainstream.
Cantons should do more to support existing organizations that promote safe play and provide a physical place and accompanying structures where gamers can gather, learn and play safely.
Investing today in tomorrow’s leaders is crucial for our society and tomorrow’s leaders are digital natives, many of which play video games.
 He is co-owner of Guild Esports, a global esports business headquartered in London
 He is an investor in the esports franchise 100 Thieves
 He has invested in aXiomatic, an esports and video game enabler