Over the course of 2019, the eSports phenomenon has shown no signs of slowing.
Audience numbers and engagement metrics have grown for what is already being seen as the “traditional” eSport games like DOTA and CS:GO.
At the same time, the blurring of lines between physical and virtual sports continues, with the rising popularity of NBA2K and some FIFA tournaments even garnering television coverage.
Last but not least we’ve seen teenage gamer Kyle ‘Bugha’ Giersdorf pocket a cool $3 million as the inaugural winner of the Fortnite World Cup.
eSport is proving that it is no flash in the pan.
But expect the evolution to continue as we go into the third decade of the new millennium.
Let’s take a look at some of the factors in play.
More Diversity Than Ever
The range of games mentioned above shows just how diverse eSport is becoming.
Yet this could be just the tip of the iceberg.
There is already a growing trend towards social gaming, where people can take on friends or complete strangers.
This is being seen in everything from word games to online pool to casino games like the ones here.
It’s no great stretch to envisage these evolving into more structured global tournaments.
A world championship for Words with Friends or Rainbow Riches? Why not?
To date, there’s still been something of a US-bias to the biggest eSport tournaments and finales.
However, that was never going to be sustainable given the immense popularity of eSport is Asia.
From 2020, both the Overwatch League and Call of Duty World League will be going truly global.
That’s great news for both fans and players in Europe and Asia.
It will allow the stars to play in front of home fans and will open up the broadcasting coverage possibilities.
All that adds up to a bigger spectacle and a growing fanbase.
Mobile’s Increasing Importance
Mobile games like Arena of Valor were initially brushed off by some as “eSport Lite” – but not for long.
There are more eSports either being ported across or specially developed for mobile every week, and that’s a trend that will accelerate as 5G takes hold across the globe.
Mobile providers and networks have been quick to see the potential market here and are rapidly getting on board to sponsor or even organize mobile eSport tournaments.
For all that, the sub-genre is still in an early growth phase, so 2020 is going to be an exciting year.
The Gender Gap
Women and sport, women and gaming – both are potentially contentious topics.
The gender gap in sport is one that has been around forever.
Sports bodies are working to address it, and the popularity and viewing figures for recent events like the women’s soccer World Cup show that progress is being made.
From an eSports perspective, there are no physical constraints that prevent men and women from competing on equal terms.
Still, the vast majority of e-Sport pros are male.
Will we see a shift in that pattern over the course of 2020?
As the gaming genres continue to broaden, it certainly ought to be the case, but right now we can only watch and wait.