How fun can it be watching people go about their workaday routines? Very, apparently.
Vicarious living has a new home in the modern livestreaming application. As a result, “editorialized” reality TV has lost its footing to a less glamorous reality narrative. Apparently, a large section of the voyeuristic masses would much rather watch line cooks send out orders over the Kardashian sisters living up to their last name. And all because of the promise of authenticity.
While apps like Meerkat and Periscope figure out how to convert eyeballs into money, there’s a form of livestreaming already raking in millions of dollars. eSports is still fighting for recognition as a legitimate sport, but the industry already has enviable revenues and a fanbase whose devotion is rivaled only by the Belieber army.
Riding Unikrn Into Battle
Mark Cuban’s shark-investing ways are well-known, but many are unaware of Ashton Kutcher’s investments in companies such as Twitter, Skype, Uber, and AirBnB. The latest company to send the two reaching for their chequebooks is eSports startup Unikrn.
Unikrn is a betting platform for eSports enthusiasts founded by Karl Flores and Rahul Sood. The service allows customers from countries where eSports betting is legalized (Australia, Ireland, England etc.) to use real money to bet on video game tournaments. Since the practice is illegal in America, the company has created a currency they call ‘Unikoin,’ which users can earn by completing tasks such as sharing Unikrn’s social media pages, playing trivia games etc. Unikoins can be exchanged for products from companies such as Alienware, HyperX, and Logitech.
It was announced earlier this year that Mark Cuban had invested $7 million in Unikrn. Lead investors included 500 Startups, Tabcorp, Indicator Ventures, and Freelands Group. Ashton Kutcher jumped on board by chipping in with an undisclosed amount via his VC firm Sound Ventures. The Two and a Half Men actor’s celebrity status and social media reach is sure to contribute not just to Unikrn’s growth but earn eSports greater recognition in the mainstream media.
eSports on the Upswing
-The term ‘eSports was’ added to the Dictionary.com lexicon in 2014
-ESPN is hiring an eSports editor, though its President John Skipper said the outlet was only interested in covering “real sports” a year ago
-Some American Universities are handing out scholarships to students with a background in professional video gaming.
-The finals of the 2014 League of Legends World Championships had 32 million viewers, more than the the finals of the Stanley Cup managed
Clearly, eSports is making big strides towards legitimacy in the mainstream. To say that it has had a rocky climb to popularity would be an understatement. For an operation that’s garnered such a dedicated fanbase and steady earnings, eSports has spent far too long trying to justify its self-proclaimed status as a sport instead of focusing on augmenting its reach and revenues.
Casuals as Causals
Startup culture has helped elevate the term “geek” from ignominy to being an envied title in a techno-centric world. In turn, geek culture has had a part to play in eSports gaining widespread acceptance. Formerly social outcasts, geeks love to congregate and eSports may just be incidental to that end.
Platforms like Twitch have also contributed to the phenomenon. The live streaming service, purchased by Amazon for $970 million last year, offers something to both diehard gamers and casual passersby. The former can earn from the comfort of their mancave through a revenue model combining subscription fees and advertisements. However, what’s been most fascinating is the growing number of eSports enthusiasts tuning in just to catch the action. According to this report, about 40 percent of the eSports audience never play the games themselves. By showing that the viewership doesn’t only consists of gamers, eSports has made its case to investors and advertisers.
Besides the passive audience, there’s also data to show that there is huge potential for eSports betting in the near future. An Eilers Research report claims that the industry will generate $24 million in revenues from 2.3 million participants betting $315 million on eSports competitions in 2015. Projections show that by 2020, the revenues will have increased to $1.81 billion from bets worth a total of $23.5 billion.
The livestreaming gold rush is here and eSports is its California. So if you’re a gamer, prepare for many hours of cutthroat competition and repetitive stress injury. If you’re a gaming enthusiast with a live streaming habit, stay right where you are. eSports is coming to a computer near you.
Prateek Jose is a writer and engineering undergrad from India with an unhealthy obsession for obscure historical trivia. Conversations about absurdist fiction and the technological singularity make his day. He’s already uploading parts of his brain to servers by writing for websites such as this one.