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Hoteliers: Strategic Business Futurist Joyce Gioia on The Rise of E-Sports

A new spectator sport is gaining worldwide popularity; It is attracting the interest of millions of fans with each fan, on average, dedicates more than an hour a day to watching their favorite players play—competitive gaming, or e-sports.

E-sports professional players compete for million-dollar prize purses. The college circuit offers scholarships to ‘student athletes’. E-sports tournaments are often played for sold-out stadium crowds, while the global viewing audience is projected to surpass 140 million by 2017.

An audience of that magnitude is difficult to ignore, if you are targeting young, affluent, tech-savvy men (and women) who have become devotees this “new sport”.

From its beginnings in South Korea. . .

Launched in the late 1990s in South Korea, competitive gaming began with a group of videogame-obsessed players and fans. Popular in the US as well as globally, e-sports has already moved beyond a handful of dedicated gamers to become a successful and lucrative spectator sport.

Now, thousands of professional gamers worldwide make their living playing videogames, while millions of fanatical fans watch. This global phenomenon is attracting both live and remote audiences.

Drivers of competitive gaming

Several elements are coming together to propel e-sports into a successful future:

Gaming. Growing in popularity, gaming itself—and especially that of free-to-play games—has fueled interest among both players and fans. For example, one of the most popular games, “League of Legends”, expects to add another 42 million new players in 2015, allowing it to reach a new high of 94 million monthly active users.

Millennial engagement. Most participants and viewers of e-sports are between ages 20 and 35. This generation grew up with videogames and enjoyed the advent of live streaming video in their early adulthood.

Connectivity. Internet speeds continue to improve, fueling the expansion of connectivity and especially live-streaming technology. This advancing technology is allowing e-sports to build on its core audience and reach an ever-expanding number of viewers.

Community. The multiplayer nature of many of the most popular games encourages players to form teams and create communities around the games, intensifying their engagement.

Accessibility. With a low barrier to entry, fans themselves play the same (mostly free) games that they watch. Moreover, unlike other professional athletes, many expert gamers make themselves accessible to fans through social media.

Money. The exponential growth of tournament prize money has further increased interest in e-sports. And the growth of corporate sponsorship—from gaming companies and others—has pumped more money into e-sports, attracting more competitors and increasing public interest.

What is coming…

As the sport draws larger and larger audiences, so will more sponsors be interested in supporting the events, which in turn, will draw even greater crowds. The industry will require larger and larger venues to hold all of its enthusiastic fans.  New technologies for e-Sports 2.0 will allow fan participation in ways we can only now imagine.

Special thanks to Michael Vidikan of Future in Focus for their excellent Global Briefing on e-sports. To read the entire report, subscribe to their service at

© Copyright 1998-2015 by The Herman Group of Companies, Inc., all rights reserved. From ‘The Herman Trend Alert,’ by Joyce Gioia, Strategic Business Futurist. (800) 227-3566 or  

The Herman Trend Alert is a trademark of The Herman Group of Companies, Inc. Reprinted with permission.