At the beginning of the year, marketing intelligence firm Newzoo released a list of trends focusing on the gaming and esports landscape in 2019. The company covered topics as diverse as the rise of digital stores, China’s regulatory clamp-down on the gaming industry, and the intensifying frequency of partnerships between non-endemic brands and esports competitors.
China’s Ethics Committee Takes an Aim at the Video Gaming Industry
At the end of 2018, a newly-set regulatory body in China, the Ethics Game Committee, issued recommendations to several high-grossing games in the country, outlining issues with the “morality and values” propagated by the titles that had made it on the list.
While not banning the games outright, as clarified by The Esports Observer (TEO), the Committee charted a course for 2019 where the government would have a much greater say in what games arrive on the market. As a result, companies will have to either adapt.
Domestic tech giants, such as Tencent, are already thinking of avoiding part of these regulations by setting-up a digital store in Hong Kong and selling their games abroad. The newly-outlined provisions will also force the hand of foreign developers to either adjust their titles or focus on other emerging and well-developed markets, such as Southeast Asia, Japan, South Korea and the established bastions of gaming to the West.
The Rise of Southeast Asia (SEA) Gaming
Southeast Asia (SEA) is going to prove a particularly vibrant market with the global audience reaching 31.9 million, according to Newzoo. Malaysia already played host to one of the largest Dota 2 events in 2018, The Kuala Lumpur Major, as part of the new competitive season for the popular MOBA title.
Places like Malaysia are marked by a strong grassroots community with organizations such as Geek Farm successful launching teams across multiple high-grossing titles, including PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), Dota 2 and mobile esports games, such as Mobile Legends: Bang Bang. Streaming is also a popular segment in SEA where entire esports communities are formed in social media around the idea of sharing streams in pursuit of recognition.
According to Newzoo, up and coming titles in the region include games, such as Hearthstone, NBA 2K and Tekken 7. Another important development in the region is the arrival of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games which will introduce esports as a medaled discipline.
There is a lot of untapped potential in SEA that western companies and event organizers are only now beginning to realize. Again, in Asia, the MMA League ONE has decided to expand into esports, vowing to run multiple events across Asia, drawing on its expertise in organizing large competitions.
Building Esports Venues Is Gathering Steam
The idea of esports arenas where fans can attend in person has been gaining traction, fast-tracked by organizations such as the Overwatch League (OWL) and even the Call of Duty World League (CWL). Official competitive events part of the LoL World Championship and Dota 2 International has attracted significant interest, but it’s league formats as the OWL and CWL that are changing the game by creating permanent locations for fans to flock to during competitive seasons and in the interim periods.
— HyperX Esports Arena Las Vegas (@HyperXEALV) January 10, 2019
In 2018, the HyperX Esports Las Vegas Arena at the Luxor became one of the first venues to offer both a place for competitive gameplay and spaces for gamers of varying skill levels to interact. Apart from the fully decked-out arenas, HyperX unveiled its Esports Truck arena, mobile venue caring high-quality gear and a dedicated broadcasting studio.
Esports venues are not built just by game developers and leagues. Full Sail University’s $6-million arena project in Florida will be the largest arena for collegiate esports. Full Sail University is part of the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE).
The Esports Insider recently reported on the expansion of Asia’s largest esports café brand in central London, with the news exciting some mutually-exclusive opinions.
Collegiate Esports Seem to be on a Fast-Track to Success
Collegiate esports are another fast-developing culture in North America. NACE has so far signed over 100 institutions of higher learning, fielding competitors among multiple competitions, including Overwatch, League of Legends, and most recently Hi-Rez Studios’ SMITE and Paladins.
Universities have been quick to develop their varsity programs, introducing a number of opportunities for those interested in esports as a competitive format and those keen on assuming a managerial role within the industry.
Some universities are already stepping up their game by attracting top gaming talent, such as Philadelphia Fusion’s Overwatch player Joe “Joemeister” Gramano signing up with Harrisburg University as their Overwatch coach.
Mobile Esports in 2019
According to Newzoo, the mobile experience will become far more engrossing in 2019, creating even more engaging titles. So far, some of the most popular games on mobile to qualify as esports have been:
- Mobile Legends: Bang Bang
- Arena of Valor
- Honor of Kings
- Clash Royale
- Clash of Titans
Admittedly, not all of these titles are excessively popular, although Fortnite iOS raked in nearly $455 million in 2018 alone in terms of game revenue. The game pulled off $69 million in December (although that number clearly fluctuated throughout 2018), Sensor Tower reported recently.
Arena of Valor is another title that left its mark on 2018, with 1.120.455 people watching the Arena of Valor International Championship 2018, as per Esports Charts’ data.
Meanwhile, Supercell’s Clash Royale and Clash of Titans have been expanding their communities, although the preferred choice of entertainment (from esports standpoint) has been Clash Royale. The game already features 44 esports organizations worldwide, which has landed it traction and despite the fairly fresh concept of “mobile esports” in the West, the segment has been doing just fine.
In 2018, Blizzard announced Diablo Immortal and stated their plans to launch every game they have for mobile. While the news wasn’t particularly well-met, by Blizzard fans especially. Neverhtless, the company seems confident in pushing ahead with its mobile ambitions. Meanwhile, Diablo Immortal’s official trailer must be one of the most down-voted game teasers in history (at least on YouTube).
More Player Branding Partnerships Arriving in 2019
In 2018, we saw League of Legends player Uzi become part of the Nike Chinese “Dribble &” marketing campaign alongside mainstream athletes such as LeBron James. Dota 2 Virtus.Pro’s Alexey “Solo” Berezin was featured in a Head & Shoulders campaign while teammate Roman “RAMZES666” Kushnarev was the face of a new Gillette commercial.
Roman “dvoryrom” Dvoryankin, the team manager spoke to Luckbox duo Sujoy Roy and Redeye, joking about the choice of athletes with the fact that RAMZES666 could not have participated in the Gillette commercial because “he didn’t have enough facial hair to be the face of Gillette”.
Another high-profile esports personality, Tylor “Ninja” Blevins, also featured in a Samsung commercial, highlighting the Samsung Galaxy’s phone.
Bringing Out More Digital Stores in 2019
One of the more interesting trends picked by Newzoo for 2019 concerns Epic Games and Discord’s efforts to break into the digital market place space, challenging the established behemoth – Steam by Valve. Both Discord and Epic Games offer better revenue-split than Steam’s 30% grab. Epic Games will only charge studios 12%. Discord pushes that number even further down, lapping up only 10% of the game developers’ revenue.