For the first time in 2019, the global esports market will exceed $1 billion. The audience for organized competitive video gaming is also expected to grow 15 percent this year to an estimated 453.8 million spectators worldwide. While the industry jockeys for sponsorships, advertising and media rights, esports teams and tournament hosts need support behind the scenes with optimized technology solutions to make esports possible.
Dan Schwab, Co-President of D&H Distributing, says he has seen the popularity of esports at the college level skyrocket. “A year ago, pockets of Division II and III schools participated in esports. Today it’s totally different. In two years, every university will be involved in esports, either with a formal school-sponsored team or by sanctioning esports clubs,” he says. “It’s starting to hit critical mass.”
He points out that some colleges and universities are offering full esports scholarships and hiring full-time esports coaches because they see the ROI. “It’s attracting students to schools, and it’s meeting students’ needs,” Schwab says.
The growing esports phenomenon isn’t limited to the college level. K-12 schools are also launching esports programs to build student engagement and crucial skills like communication and collaboration. “If there’s enough interest,” says Schwab, “schools will invest in esports, just like they do with band, drama, hockey or basketball.”
The Tech Behind the Team
As a competition powered by technology, esports depends heavily on hardware and software solutions. Schwab says opportunities in the emerging esports market include assisting a college or university to build a team lab equipped with wireless infrastructure, IP video, digital signage and displays, computers and peripherals. Teams can also benefit from esports data analytics and management solutions. “Teams are looking for fully configured systems,” Schwab says. Although as a distributor, D&H does not directly provide these solutions, it works to connect teams with resellers and managed services providers who sell and implement such systems.
Solutions are also in demand for gaming venues, which, says Schwab, are appearing at the rate of about one per week. D&H is a proud supporter of Pennsylvania’s first collegiate eSports team, the Harrisburg University Storm, which launched its eSports arena at the Whitaker Center located near the university in 2017.
Enter the eSports Solutions Provider?
Some ISVs and solutions providers are beginning to offer solutions customized for esports. Schwab comments that IT businesses that serve the education vertical and are most familiar with the potential esports customer base can most easily expand into this area.
Schwab says, as with any vertical, it’s the job of VARs and ISVs to understand the technology requirements for esports solutions as well as the business’ or organization’s needs. “Stay informed about the esports solutions that are available,” says Schwab. “To be successful, be well-educated about esports and stay ahead of the curve.”
Get in the Game
Schwab, who participated in a panel discussion at the Second Annual National Association of Collegiate eSports (NACE) Convention in July, says buzz at the convention underscored the breadth and potential impact of esports. Technology consulting firm Activate predicts that by 2021, esports will have an audience of 84 million in the U.S. second only to the NFL’s 141 million viewers. And global esports viewership is expected to grow from 454 million viewers – both occasional and frequent — this year to nearly 650 million by 2022.
Esports competitions are broadcast on ESPN, ABC, TBS, and Disney as well as streamed online on services such as Twitch, YouTube, and MLG.tv.
As a trusted business advisor, you can help the schools, organizations and other clients with an interest in this growing market to find cost-effective solutions that optimize gaming performance and help them achieve the position they’re aiming for in the esports ecosystem.