Why the f**k should you care about people watching other people play video games?
Esports is cool and all, but what does it actually mean for your business? I see the term thrown around as a cool buzzword everywhere without many times even knowing what it means.
I’m going to try and answer some questions and misconceptions that come across frequently, like how big of a phenomenon are we talking about? or Why is it relevant for you? How can your business actually benefit from all this?
What is esports (not e-sports or eSports etc.)
The term comes from electronic sports. Generally, the term is used very broadly to speak about anything and everything related to gaming and that’s fine. But it’s important to understand the differences between these industries. Not all gaming or game development have anything to do with esports, nor should they.
Esports is the act of competing in video games, but just like in any sports, it’s tricky to find the exact moment when playing becomes a sport. But in this article, I’m going to draw the line to where the players think of it as a possible career and their goal is to compete at the highest level.
Another thing that can be confusing, as it’s often spoken about as a part of esports, and it kind of is, but then again it isn’t, is streaming.
Streaming is in this context the act of broadcasting yourself playing games to others. While streaming does not necessarily fill the definition of esports, or sport of any kind, it has really similar business model to esports.
It is driven by the same metrics as esports, which mainly is the number of eyeballs watching the broadcast. And the monetization comes mostly from advertising to the viewers.
In this article, I’m talking about streaming as a part of esports.
In 2020 Twitch reported that viewers have watched over 1 trillion minutes on their platform during 2020. Trillion is a big number and it’s hard to grasp, so let’s turn it into something a bit more comprehensible, like 1,9 million years.
This means that on average, every human alive on the planet has watched over 2 hours of other people gaming on Twitch just in 2020. Or the combined humans of North America and Europe watched over around 1000 minutes per person.
Twitch is reported to have around 66% market share as of 2020 in terms of viewership, while YouTube is at 22% and Facebook at 12%.
Do you ever post on social media with the intent of getting users to engage with you just to realize that nobody really cares?
Let me introduce you to Twitch chat where everyone is an expert on every possible matter and no one will sit there idly without participating, whether they are praising you or tearing you apart.
If you are afraid of negative feedback, this might not be for you. But if you are looking for people that engage, oh boy are you in the right place.
Twitch is one of those rare places where, if you do things right, it becomes an echo chamber of your message. If you play your cards right and understand your audience, you will get immense amounts of positive engagement.
Often viewers have such an intimate connection to the streamers, as they are interacting with them live. They have genuine conversations between the viewers and the streamer.
So, how does this affect advertising?
As viewers have such a strong connection to the streamers, they want to support them. Often streamers have some sort of affiliate codes or links that gives them a small share of the revenue that you’ve generated for your business and the viewers are happy to pay the price for your product, as it supports someone they enjoy watching.
If you are looking to promote a new product for example. One of the best ways is to get them into the hands of some of these influencers and let them handle it in their own way.
More often than not, their viewers genuinely want to engage and ask questions of the product and if your product is good and the streamer likes it, they will most likely convince someone to buy that exact product if they are on the fence about which one to buy and send the streamer a tweet afterward to thank them for the good endorsement.
Think about the image above. Not just how you see your company, but how your potential customers see you. Or better yet, ask them. I bet young adults see your company’s brand as boring because they are so used to unfiltered content from all these crazy influencers.
It’s quite rare to see established companies dare do something as drastic as communicating with their potential customers on their terms.
Just think a moment how ridiculous that sounds.
Companies are constantly knowingly doing something that is alienating them from their young userbase because they are too afraid and protective of their lame branding that does not speak to 20-year-olds at all. And then they are left wondering why it’s so hard to engage with young people.
If you are in any way targeting people between the ages of 18–30, you need to be thinking about esports and streaming.
Everyone knows the stories about how Kodak didn’t want to manufacture digital cameras because no one will really use them. Or how Nokia didn’t believe in smartphones. Don’t be like these companies by thinking this is not relevant to you.
Superbowl is still the most-watched sports event of all time, and will probably continue to be so for a while still. But while the Superbowl viewer rates have been staying the same, or even lowered during the past years, esports viewership has been growing on average 15% per year, and the growth rate is accelerating. Esports is projected to have around 650 million followers by the year 2023, which would make it the 8th most-watched sport in the world.
All this growth is happening while the industry is still young and the rates are low. There’s so much room for innovation, new business models, and revenue streams.
Consider spending money on esports as an investment. You put in money when it’s cheap, you help build the industry, create strategic partnerships and watch your competitors’ agony in 5 years when they have to pay multiple times the price you did while having worse ROI.
For the memes (no, really)
Here’s an example of a highly successful ad campaign on Twitch:
If you’ve been watching Twitch around 2018–2019, you probably know what I’m talking about.
In 2018, Amazon launched an ad campaign for their new series Jack Ryan that was playing on Amazon Prime. This was heavily advertised on Twitch.
And as it was shown so much on Twitch, the community adopted a catchphrase from the trailer as their own. They started making their own versions of it, mainly as memes. This allowed Amazon to gain huge amounts of free advertising.
At the end of 2018, if there was one thing that every Twitch viewer knew, it was that Jack Ryan can’t go to Yemen because he’s an analyst.