The Rise of Streaming and eSports
I feel like we’re living during a super interesting period of time. Due to innovations in technology and services like Twitch.tv and YouTube, there are very few barriers to entry for creative individuals that want to share videos or streams for the games that they love. When someone creates their own User Generated Content (UGC) pretty much anyone in the world can find it, watch it, and enjoy it. In addition, a content creator can engage directly with his or her fans through social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. This direct access to the fans of a product is much different from how things were a few years ago.
For decades, the holy grail for people that wanted to promote live gaming was to get on broadcast television. For example, the guys working to advertise Magic the Gathering to a larger audience worked with ESPN and MTV to broadcast matches, raise awareness, and make Magic the Gathering look “totally awesome.” For reference, check out this ad for one of their campaigns in the 1990’s.
I’m not saying that Magic the Gathering hasn’t experienced success. They’ve done incredibly well over the past few years. Our culture has changed though, and customers are less receptive to a company broadcasting at them about whatever the hottest new thing is. The rise of streaming does a few things very well. It shows that actual people are playing these games, and it makes it easy for someone who is interested in learning more about a gaming product to immediately talk to people that are knowledgeable about it.
The rise of eSports is interesting to me also. League of Legends is one game where the tournament matches have become destinations for viewers. They do this in more ways than just streaming online. They organize events at studios where tournament matches are being played and broadcast from. I had the pleasure of attending an event like at a television studio in Manhattan Beach recently. The energy of the crowd at these eSports events is surreal and the production quality of these events is incredibly high.
It’s becoming apparent that the end goal of spectator gaming doesn’t need to be a television broadcast to be considered a success. It just needs to justify the spending from the company and other sponsors. Groups like Hulu, Amazon and Netflix are diligently searching for the next big thing in regards to original programing. As eSports continues to prosper, will streaming services like these become a home for live gaming events or Let’s Play videos? Compare the last League of Legends World Championship in October 2013 that was watched by approximately 32 million people to the last Super Bowl in February 2014 was watched by approximately 111 million people. The viewership is definitely there for live gaming events. Since the viewership is practically at a critical mass, what is going to happen next?
I can’t properly express how excited I am to see the developments over the next few years in regards to how games are streamed. Unlike previous generations, the independent gamer and UGC creator has few barriers to entry and can easily share what he or she creates with the world. There are more ways than ever to help UGC creators turn their hobbies into careers. In addition, the companies that support gaming brands will be rewarded if they seize these opportunities to reach fans in new and innovative ways. Gamers and industry professionals that support the gaming industry are living through historic events.
I’m stoked to see what happens next!