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What Is The Role Of Telcoms In The Futureproofing Of The eSport Industry?

In June, Virgin Media became SIRO’s newest retail partner reselling our fibre broadband network across Ireland and joining existing retailers such as Vodafone, Sky, Digiweb, Pure Telecom and Blacknight amongst others. Virgin Media will offer speeds for residential customers of up to 2 Gigabit per seconds.

Access to 2 Gigabits speeds will be welcome news for Ireland’s gaming community – over 700,000 – and particularly those who participate in multi-player gaming and e-Sports.

Meanwhile, it is a tough time for the tech industry. Layoffs, organisational reshuffling, and reprioritising of funds is seen across the sector, and e-Sports is no exception.

This year has seen tough layoffs and closures for eSports agencies, like The Guard, eUnited, FaZe Clan and 100 Thieves.

It is a stark contrast when we reflect on the not-so-distant past of 2020. When we look back to then, for the e-Sports industry, there was an increased demand for tournaments and games throughout the pandemic. Traditional sports had to take a step back, due to restrictions on public gatherings, and e-Sports attracted new audiences like never before.

What Is The Role Of Telcoms In The Futureproofing Of The eSport Industry?

From there, virtual tournaments that could be held at a distance, with large pots of cash up for grabs by the victor were in vogue. Yet, three years on, has the hype died down?

Industry experts say: the jury’s still out.

Recently, the final ever major Counter-Strike Global Offensive (CS: GO), a first-person shooter game event was held in Paris, France. It was viewed more than 1.5 million times on and was the third most viewed major CS: GO event ever. The event was held at the Accor Stadium in Paris and the stadium, which can hold over 83,000 people, was packed.

Discourse within the e-sports industry is divisive as to whether e-sports can continue as it is. Some view it as a marketing machine. For First Person Shooter and Battle Royale games, reliant on sponsorships; others as a poorly managed business.

What e-Sports is at its heart, however, is a means of uniting a community of gamers with a unique sporting experience with the potential to be permanent fixture for sport and gaming enthusiasts that lasts the test of time.

There is opportunity with the e-Sports industry to expand on its partnership with telecoms, be it through additional sponsorships, or by providing connectivity to venues where high-stake tournament events are held. In Ireland the audio-visual sector, including games development is growing, and fibre connectivity low latency and high speeds has been instrumental in supporting its success.

Irish retail telcos like Virgin Media have begun to sponsor gaming infrastructure and events. WYLDE, an e-Sports agency who collaborate with Virgin Media has established an e-Sports training academy in Cork  for budding professionals.

Another international example of this is South Korea’s SK Telecom, who support SKT T1. SKT T1 are one of the most successful and highly decorated teams in the League of Legends e-Sports professional scene.

The e-Sports industry is of course chasing lucrative sponsorships, as it’s critical for the industry to ensure it can establish large events for its fans to attend. For tournaments, it relies on viewership, brand deals, and ticket sales to justify the large tournament pots.

For the viewer, there currently is not as much incentive to spend on e-Sports, as much of its content is free. According to a report by Deloitte in 2022 on the spending behaviours of European e-sports fans, barely 10% have made a purchase. Yet, the global e-sports industry in 2022 was worth over €1.29 billion ($1.39 billion) and is expected to grow. This means while some viewers are not spending, there is a lot of current, and future, value placed on the industry by analysts.

So, what can the e-Sports industry do to future-proof itself? Some market experts argue that strategic partnerships are the way to go. While it may be obvious that collaborating with computer hardware brands, video game development companies is one route; telcos too have been placed high on the list of natural partners.

With fibre connectivity, there are opportunities (network coverage pending) to host either virtual or in-person events, like e-Sport training boot camps where enthusiasts can meet the teams they look up to and improve their aim or get insider “pro-gamer” moves. There is plenty of opportunities for telcos and e-Sports to collaborate outside of just sponsoring the tournament event hall with connectivity.

With the arrival of Web3 and the Metaverse, events can now be held within the Metaverse, incentivising viewers to get involved while charging a nominal fee or selling rNFTS (Redeemable Non-Fungible Tokens) for a return on investment.

This is similar to Roblox and Minecraft holding concerts with big names like Ariana Grande and Lil Nas X to perform virtually. Influencer marketing and content creation are now tried and tested ways of casting a wider net to pull in larger audiences for e-Sports and gaming.

While the e-Sports industry is going through a rebalancing act, there is still plenty of opportunity for growth for the sector. Fans are still interested in the competitive aspect of gaming, whether it be FPS or Battle Arena games. For telcos, particularly on the retail side, supporting and collaborating with the e-Sports industry, unlocks the opportunity to access tens of millions of active players and fans globally – something which is hugely attractive as all telcos look to grow their brand awareness and their customer base.

For more information on SIRO’s network and how it can support your gaming needs, take a read here.

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