eSports and Crypto: Game, Set, Match? 5 Key Takeaways From Our All-Star Panel
On July 25, we hosted a special Crypto Mondays event in New York featuring leading lights on the convergence of eSports, sports, and crypto, namely:
Roderick Alemania, CEO of ReadyUp, an eSports platform, which helps users find and meet gamers, and makes it easy for gamers to manage teams, stay connected, and improve.
John Kosner, President of Kosner Media, a digital media and sports consultancy company. John was a 21-year veteran of ESPN. He is an advisor to ReadyUp.
Kevin April, CEO of SportsCastr, a live-streaming company that allows anyone to instantly become a live color commentator to any viewer in the world.
You can watch a video of the panel here.
Here’s our breakdown, with five key takeaways from the event:
1. It’s becoming another sports cliché: eSports growth is huge.
Roderick said that eSports revenue was in the range of $1 billion annually, roughly doubling year-over-year, according to John. That would make eSports ~10% of annual NFL revenue, with the added upside of attacking a truly global market, which the NFL — along with most U.S. professional sports leagues — is not really doing. Stats like the reported $500,000 in monthly revenue generated by Tyler Blevins (aka Ninja) are turning heads, including those of pro athletes in regular sports leagues. Leading sources of eSports revenue are advertising and purchases of virtual in-game goods and services. According to Roderick, the ad dollars are following the users, leveraging the data from this natively digital content for better programmatic targeting. John noted that large advertisers want scale, which puts Twitch in a great position to grow. Roderick said that crypto promises additional means of media monetization, such as through compensating users themselves for use of their data, and directly rewarding them for taking high-value actions. One growth wildcard is the potential boost from gambling, according to John.
2. eSports enthusiasts could provide home field advantage for crypto adoption.
Crypto’s incentives are a short step from the points and rewards already common and popular with gamers and eSports enthusiasts. Kevin said that gamers are already used to using digital tokens and currencies. The panel sees eSports as thus providing a natural pool of early adopters for the integration of crypto — whatever it is actually called in the context of the games — into a rapidly growing set of use cases.
3. eSports is more global than sports, inviting crypto use cases.
U.S. professional sports, for all their claims to global appeal, are still quite U.S.-centric in their fan and revenue bases. By contrast, according to John, eSports are the second or third most popular in a number of Asian countries. Moreover, Kevin said that eSports could attract the long tail with its many “micro-influencers” playing a broad selection of games. eSports have the potential to blaze a more global trail, creating another reason for integrating globally accepted incentives, which are not denominated in any particular national currency — i.e., crypto.
4. Democratization from opportunities to get paid to play, coach, and comment.
There are powerful themes of democratization in eSports, which could help them build crypto communities. Start with the fact that some of the best eSports players look more like the typical fan. That said, professional athletes are big gamers, and a shared passion for eSports allows sports stars to build more bridges to their fans. John said to expect professional athletes to have their own channels on Twitch, for example. eSports fans are more likely to be gamers with active interests in commenting on play, finding others with whom to play, and giving and receiving coaching on how to play better. These factors help platforms like ReadyUp and SportsCastr (using its proprietary synchronization technology) evolve from mere media and entertainment platforms into community builders. Crypto tokens are natural tools to reinforce bonds in these communities.
5. U.S. is still in the cheap seats when it comes to access to tokens.
eSports have rules, and eSports platforms want to play by the rules. In the case of token offerings, that means, at least for now, that ReadyUp and SportsCastr are not selling tokens to their U.S. fan bases. Instead, only U.S. accredited investors have the opportunity to buy ReadyUp’s tokens and SportsCastr’s current token sale is not open to U.S. buyers at all. What the impact of these U.S. legal limitations will be on the growth and functionality of these and other global eSports services remains to be seen.
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