Nearly every element of modern-day life can be replicated online; including celebrities and fandoms. Whilst celebs such as Tom Hardy and Emma Stone plaster cover-to-cover of magazines, a new breed of celebrity is taking the stage in the digital world: gamers!
Gamers, who may have begun paving their path to stardom through casual CS:GO play, now boast millions of social followers, subscribers and fans. In a similar way that football fans follow the moves of their favourite players, competitive gamers now have their own influence and authority over a world online.
So how do competitive gamers achieve such stardom and adoration online?
Instead of spending hour upon hour playing their favourite video games themselves, millennials are now opting to watch somebody else play a game through online streaming platforms. Popular streamers are adding a constant live voiceover to the gameplay. The stream doesn’t have to be about the quality of the gameplay or the gaming experience on a whole to be popular. More often than not, viewers are attracted to certain streaming channels for their social aspects as well. The reason why some streamers are so popular with viewers is that they make the viewer laugh and offer a more engaging viewing experience than your typical TV show would. Viewers can interact with each other as well as the streamer via chat boxes in the channel.
Twitch is the go-to platform for hosting online live-streaming channels. If you’ve never heard of Twitch, then you probably should do by now. Acquired by Amazon in 2013 for $1 Billion, it has surged in popularity year after year. In 2015, the site averaged 550,000 concurrent viewers. At its peak, Twitch hit 2 million concurrent viewers which coincided with the streaming of popular esports tournaments ESL One & NA LCS. On average, each Twitch viewer watches 421 minutes monthly; YouTube’s average is around 291 minutes per month. During peak hours, Twitch sits right behind Apple and Netflix in the internet traffic rankings. Impressive for a website that is only 5 years old.
In some cases, streamers can become so popular that they can quit their day job and live-streaming video games become their full-time work. There is potential for popular streamers to earn in excess of $100,000 a year by live-streaming on Twitch. Once a streamer hits an average of 500 concurrent viewers, they can become a Twitch partner which means users can pay the streamer for premium features such as emoticons, exclusive content and no advertisements. Of course, with popularity comes a lot of Twitch subscribers. From a $5 Twitch subscription, the streamer receives around half of this. Donations from viewers also make up a lot of the money earnt for a subscription. Viewers donate to their favourite streamers for trivial things such as ‘shout outs’ and to extend the duration of the stream. All of this adds up to big business for the streamer.
From playing video games every day some people can become highly skilled players and can choose to play competitively in the world of esports. These people devote their lives to playing video games, becoming damn good at playing them in the process.
Esports has been around for decades but in recent years the scene has exploded in popularity worldwide, with gamers coming from every country around the world. In 2015, esports saw a growth rate of 67% and a further 43% in 2016. These are huge growth rates which have catapulted esports into a very big deal indeed. 40,000 seater stadiums often sell out when gaming enthusiasts flock to watch their favourite gamer and gaming teams play competitively in tournaments for games such as League of Legends, Counterstrike and Dota2 for HUGE cash prizes.
The audience for esports, according to ‘CGA Global’ is 131 million ‘enthusiasts’ with another 125 million casual viewers. These are huge figures for what is considered a niche sport. One factor which has helped contribute to esports’ storming success is the online streaming of tournaments on platforms like Twitch, where its perfect target audience is… gaming enthusiasts. With such high audience figures, this is big business for brands to capitalise on. Players and teams can earn lucrative sponsorship and advertising deals with some of the biggest brands out there such as Samsung & Red Bull.
On the other hand, it is not all fun and games. Professional players are considered athletes. Therefore, they must abide by strict training schedules, diets and find little time to do anything other than play video games. esports shows no sign stopping its exceptional growth. In years to come esports players could become the household names of the future with tournaments already beginning to be aired on prime-time mainstream TV channels such as ESPN.
Both esports and live-streaming platforms such as Twitch have been described as the ‘new frontier’ for marketing. The commercial opportunities for brands and businesses are there for all to see through the wealth of stats. It is worth noting millennials are not the only social group addicted to this digital world. People of all ages and nationalities are streaming and esports enthusiasts. Also, it is not a male dominated world like some traditional sports are; females are equally as interested as males. This worldwide phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down and is here to stay.
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