We are still in the stadium this week for something quite different: e-sports (aka electronic sport) and high level competitive video gaming. Numbers of gamers are comparable to numbers of sports fans (2 billions) and 40% of e-sport followers are not gamers themselves (according to Newzoo).
Is e-sport really a sport?
As Flavien Guillocheau (Pandascore) explains in Cap Digital Newsletter “e-sports are video game contests at a professional level: they involve players, teams, agents, coaches, analytics… all working together to win the game”. Just like athletes, professional gamers have sponsors, labeled equipment, agents, coaches and some are even superstars !
What about the physical activity? Although they don’t appear to be fully using their body when playing, gamers actually develop “mechanical skills”: eye-hand coordination, reaction time, number of moves per minute, tactics, concentration, decision making, stress management (read more on this topic in l’Équipe). It seems that the body is put to work as much as the brain is. Professional teams suffer frequent injuries (notably carpal tunnel syndromes), but the subject is not well studied and there are no specialized physicians on professional team payrolls as yet. Things are set to change as Red Bull recently announced the creation of a High Performance e-sport Lab in California.
The rise of E-sports
E-sports appeared 20 or 30 years ago, and professional teams have been around for just about 15 years. The sector now generates enough audience to attract major brands and sponsors (Coca-Cola, Red Bull, New Balance, Asus…), just like any other discipline in the sports industry. The acquisition of live streaming video platform Twitch by Amazon in August 2014 was a landmark event. Today, e-sports tournaments gather tenths of thousands ofviewers, generating a whole economy that involves a variety of actors.
The end of 2015 was a turning point, as e-sports were recognized as a full-fledged discipline in Axelle Lemaire’s law on digital works (interestingly, chess are recognized since 2000).
Newspapers and magazines are also interested in this development. Only a few weeks ago, online magazine “Explore” (L’Equipe.fr) launched a subsidiary website Génération e-sport dedicated to the history and news of this (not-so) recent activity. One issue describes the sharp contrast between 2011’s first e-sports World Cup in a shabby theatre, and the 2014 edition at Seoul’s Sangam Stadium. In 2015, l’Equipe was broadcasting the event.
Digital innovation startup companies are lined-up to ride this growing wave.
Twitch was one among other general content streaming platforms, and became a central player after specializing in video games and e-sports tournament broadcasting. It now operates with several strategic partnerships including video game publishers, developers, and equipment makers (Microsoft et Sony).
Nadeo is a French studio acquired by Ubisoft. Their first product was Trackmania, a customized car game that gathered a vast on-line community. They now specialize in e-sports oriented products featuring online contests and challenges capability. This is how they market Shootmania, a first-person shooter: “With ShootMania, we were the first on E3 to set up a true competition” (read more on Jeuxvideo.com). The game is a toolbox to create a variety of competition-oriented challenges.
Glory 4 gamers is an online videogame tournament platform designed to set up multiplayer sessions for games that don’t feature that capability. The platform offers the possibility of human refereeing in competitive gaming. The company is also an event organizer for major tournaments where participants can be either physical (typically in stadiums and concert halls) or digital (online from home).
Viewer’s augmented experience
Matcherino is a crowdfunding solution for e-sport games that “enriches the interaction between online video gaming broadcasters and their fans by providing tools that take audience engagement to the next level.” says CEO Grant Farwell (GeekWire).
Byzon Media created Fanster, an application designed for viewers to interact during e-sport events (chat, pictures and stats sharing, real time mini-games synchronized with the live event…). The technical prowess is the live interaction of a massive online community of viewers.
Analytics in e-sports
Berlin-based company Dojo Madness brings analytics into e-sports. Their first application is LoLSumo (LoL= League of Legends, multiplayer online battle arena set in a heroic-fantasy environment): this app searches through data in real time to provide players with useful tactical guidance to identify their priorities along the game.
Bruce.GG is their second product. It enables players to replay videos of their own games to analyze their performance and identify good strategies…and bad moves.
E-gamers with more than a keyboard?
Beyond the world of pro-gaming, video games have seen fundamental changes over the recent years. Virtual reality, sensory and immersive gaming stations are bringing new experiences to game play, fully mobilizing gamers body.
Oculus is way ahead
Pioneer company Oculus, specialized in virtual reality (acquired by Facebook) recently added sensor gloves to their existing HMD device. On December 16th video game company Crytek released The Climb: a rock-climbing game set on a paradise island with the scope of a launch title for this new technology.
Before long, these technology-driven changes could find their use in competitive gaming.
45° tilt and 360° rotation for total immersion
MM One project has a three-axis rotating seat combined with joystick and VR headset for racing, space simulators and other adrenaline-pumping games. It offers 45° tilts and 360° rotation for a full immersion.
One hour, 5 km and 400 kcal
KatWalk is another example of how immersive games will make your body move, run, jump and squat. Physical activity – workout – is the essence of this game, and stereotypes on gamers and video games need to be reconsidered. Is it the future of e-sports?
E-Sports is a well-developed business in countries like China and Korea, but still at an early stage in France. Fans have are already monetizing their interest, while brands and media are following the trend: E-sports are becoming an industry.
Mainstream mentalities still entertain negative views on e-sports, and the practice is indeed limited to closed circles for now. Women are not strongly represented in this sector and sexist attitudes remain.
Future en Seine team will have something to say about that during the festival: join the game next June to find out what!