Cover photo: the League of Legends World Championships in Berlin, in 2015

Is esports a bubble? Do brands understand esports? How can we trust viewer numbers?

These were some of the big questions that some experts of esports tried to answer, last Friday, where the third edition of the Dojo Esport event took place at the Hôtel de Ville (City hall) of Paris. Some of the best in the esports scene in France were present, as well as other actors that came from all over Europe to tackle the important questions in esports that many people are asking themselves right now (spoiler alert: 2019 looks as bright as ever for esports.)

Olivier Morin, founder and CEO of JK agency — the agency behind the event  started the day with a small introduction and presented the program of the day. The first morning conference was about the trust in numbers in terms of viewership for esports by ESC’s (Esports Charts) Ivan Danishevsky and the second morning conference was called Esports marketing: The race for ideas begins, with a panel of 4 diverse experts in esports. During the morning conferences, simultaneously, the first summit of esports federations in Europe was held in another area of the City Hall. Presidents and members of national esports federations across Europe were meeting to discuss the future of esports.

For the afternoon, we would have a choice between several workshops and have many moments to meet fascinating people in the industry.

Dojo Esports Digital Insighters

Here are our highlights of this day:

Trust in esports metrics

The main topic discussed by Ivan Danishevsky during his conference was trust in the metrics. A lot of numbers are constantly being thrown around in the industry, but sometimes these numbers can look suspicious and maybe too exaggerated. The Chinese metrics are especially a point of uncertainty, as the methodology of counting the viewers are significantly different compared to the rest of the world. The prime example is the streaming website Huya, which counts viewers very differently than Twitch. On a specific event, Huya could count as much as four times more viewers than Twitch would. To gain trust with every actors in Esports — especially to attract new actors in the ecosystem  it is crucial to have reliable numbers. It is possible that unreliable numbers may have been an impediment to esports growth business-wise in the last few years, but now options exist to get numbers we can trust from esports events, as organizations such as ESC provides trustworthy numbers.

Other things we learned from the talk:

  • Esports viewership peak was at over 203M (including Chinese viewers)
  • In terms of hours watched, Fortnite and League of Legends were far ahead of the other games with 1.36B hours and 986.87M hours respectively, compared to Dota 2 in third place with 473.84M hours.
  • More hours in 2018 were spent on Twitch than on Netflix

Esports marketing : the race for ideas begins!

The Esports marketing panel was moderated by Nicola Piggot, founder and CEO of the Story Mob, and ex-head of Esports at Riot Games. Were speaking: Ollie Ring, Head of Media at Esports Insider, Fabien Senlanne, CTO of Sogenti and Alexandre Dachary, COO of ZT productions.

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Consumer brands are getting better at talking to an esports audience

While there are some examples of brands that missed the mark when investing in esports, the reasons are usually easily explainable. The brands approached esports with some clichés in mind, thinking mostly about the esports community as geeks instead of thinking of it as one of the most connected and community-driven demographic. On the other hand, the number of brands entering the industry keep increasing. As an example, just last week, Shell, Puma, Panini and Mercedes-Benz entered esports. It follows a large number of brands that entered esports in 2018. The speakers on the panel agreed that brands were investing smartly in esports nowadays and are optimistic going forward.

There is accessible knowledge for brands to get involved in esport

Ollie Ring was adamant that there were a ton of people in esports right now that are ready to educate brands, but you still have to speak to the right people. The education does not necessarily come from people outside of organizations, it can come from within as well. Company executives should pay attention to employees who are knowledgeable in esports and could be instrumental in advising on how to enter the industry. Ollie Ring gave an example of how the paralegal of a London law firm was key in introducing esports to the partners.

As Fabien Senlanne pointed out as well, it’s important that non-endemic brands (brands not obviously associated to gaming) understand that the gaming and esports ecosystem is not amateurs but full of experienced professionals, similarly to the sports industry. By approaching the industry without clichés in mind, brands will have great access to knowledge from professionals.

Is esports a bubble that will burst in a few years?

Firstly, it’s not really justified to worry that some games are fads. Some people say that brands are afraid to invest into esports because they fear the game is just here for a moment (by the way, note from us: thought Pokémon GO was a fad? Niantic, the game’s editor, did $800 millions dollars in revenue in 2018). There is an extremely low chance that games will lose all their users overnight. When you think about traditional sports declining such as golf or baseball, the decline is not sudden but over a long period of time: It will be the same for esports games. Secondly, it is true that a lot of money have been poured in esports recently and a lot of excitement is driving growth which some analysts read as a bubble. We don’t know for sure if all the companies that received massive investments are profitable or will survive, but esports is definitely here to stay as a form of entertainment, as the viewership numbers are showing. 

Great energy and business opportunities for brands

Throughout the day, we had the opportunity to speak to a lot of actors of the industry: From the executive of a huge esports league and an owner of an esports team; to esports journalists and former executives of big video games publishers.

The energy, the opportunities and the excitement are there. Companies and agencies that in any other business would be competitors help each other raise awareness for the industry, esports veterans speak enthusiastically and patiently to newcomers and every actor in the ecosystem is finding synergies to create value. The deputy mayor, representing Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris made a speech showing the strong support of the city of Paris for what is about to come in esports.

One area where there is close to no doubt: brands that will seize the opportunity to enter esports in 2019  which attracts massive audiences, strong and impassioned fans, community-driven and digital demographics will be huge winners. 

The Dojo Esport event was great, and we can’t wait for the next edition. Meanwhile, the esports French scene will have a huge year 2019, with notably the League of Legends World Championships [sic] that will take place at the Accor Hotels Arena in November.

(Disclaimer: the second photo is from 2018 but this scene is very similar to what we saw last Friday :-))

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