Why Startups are Taking the eSports World by Storm
Twenty years ago, if anyone had suggested that video gaming could create millionaires, the assumption would have been that it was the games’ developers who’d be making the money. But now it’s more than possible to win seven-figure sums simply for being good at them.
Such has been the meteoric rise of eSports tournaments that the largest one, The International, last year had a total prize fund of over $34 million dollars. The industry as a whole is projected to generate around $1.4 billion in revenue in 2021, an almost threefold increase on the $469 million figure for 2017. So, it hardly needs saying that this is a sector that is booming in a way that no-one could possibly have anticipated, as well as one which is fuelling a great many start-ups.
Asia, and especially South East Asia, is a particular hotbed of action due to the huge number of eSports fans in the region, many of whom aspire to become video game champions themselves. But to get there, just as an Olympic athlete or a professional footballer needs expert coaching to reach the pinnacle of their game, so do gamers. This has led to a number of start-ups developing AI-driven training sites such as SenpAI which aim to hone skills driven by reacting to the players’ own abilities.
The fact that, following being made a show sport at the 2018 Asian Games, eSports being granted full competitive status for the 2022 games to be held in Hangzhou, will only make demand for this kind of service grow. It’s also believed that many other Asian start-ups will be given the catalyst to get off the ground on the back of this. No doubt, many of them will also have the model of the Singapore games giant SEA in their sights, the very first ever South East Asian tech company to be listed on the New York stock exchange.
Alongside the wildfire popularity of eSports, another ancillary sector has also appeared, with eSports betting coming from nowhere to already be generating an estimated $12 billion a year. While some of the biggest names in the online betting world have already started to add eSports to their offering this, too, has created great opportunities for start-ups. A prime example is Midnite, which claims to be the only dedicated eSports betting site that UK customers can use. The start-up recently secured $2.5 million in additional funding and is expected to use at least some of the capital to develop its global offering.
The sponsorship opportunities that eSports offer – worth $360 million in 2018 – have also attracted a whole range of new start-ups including France’s Galibelum; which seeks to bring brands and player together for mutual benefits.
So, while eSports has already come a long way since its beginnings, there’s also the feeling that this is really only the start of things to come – and with many more start-ups destined to profit from its growth.