Jonathan Smith, Solution Area Expert – Cloud, Net Insight
eSports is on a high, with numerous new global tournaments and competitions rising to engage millions of dedicated fans around the world. Immersive technologies, 4D simulation, and Building Information Modelling (BIM) marry the ‘virtual’ and the ‘physical’ to create unique and compelling experiences for growing in-person and streaming audiences.
The global eSports market is expected to reach almost $6 billion by 2030 (Straits Research 2022), growing at a CAGR of 21.9% during 2022–2030, driving exciting monetization opportunities for eSports content — from advertising, sponsorship, and rights deals to delivering hyper-personalized consumer content, real-time game stats, graphics, highlights, and pre/post-game content.
While for years gaming had a special place in gamers’ hearts and digital platforms’ bottom lines, technology innovations like cloud, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Virtual/Augmented/Extended Reality (VR/AR/XR) have taken VR sports and gaming a step further. Today’s eSports is all about high-performing athletes moving from controlling the gaming console to being at the center of the (virtual) stage — they become the eSports.
Over the last couple of years, new eSports have been created and are going viral among fans powered by the cloud, 5G, and the latest cognitive and VR technologies. Reliable and low-latency connectivity and effective live feed management and distribution at scale are critical parameters for the new eSports to take off and thrive.
The next generation of eSports
The new generation of eSports athletes is armed with high-tech gear powered by sensors, cameras, and computer vision. eSports stadiums are typically blank venues equipped with intuitive technologies that transform them into cutting-edge competition arenas. What’s even more interesting is that opponents sit in similar venues across different countries, hundreds or thousands of miles away, yet give the illusion of being physically next to one another. In-person and virtual audiences globally are immersed in the game and are integral parts of the competition. This unique choreography of players and fans requires stringent synchronization and accuracy to work and deliver compelling viewing experiences and allow the monetization opportunities that digital platforms, advertisers, sponsors, and rights holders are eager to tap into.
How does it work in action?
Camera feeds coming from each player across every venue are sent to a centralized cloud production system and are combined with graphic overlays to create the virtual environment. This is where the right technology toolset is critical for the success of the overall project and the quality of the viewing experience eSports fans enjoy. Deterministic latency is a mission-critical capability to seamlessly merge a physical and virtual event in real time, and transport live feeds effortlessly. Any delay variance, even in the milliseconds, would severely damage the player and viewer experience. This means that the right cloud media delivery platform is necessary to enable the transport of live feeds for production.
The cloud revolution in eSports distribution
For eSports, success comes with achieving the right scale. The greater the richness across digital platforms, markets, and geographies, the bigger the audiences and growth opportunities.
Once the live feeds are produced and the virtual setting of the eSports game is created, these feeds need to be distributed to the right destinations, including mobile and desktop applications, digital platforms, and streaming channels across the world. Given that each destination has its technology as well as language requirements, it is essential for industry players to curate and customise the feeds to meet the needs of each market and digital platform. Once again, the right media tech infrastructure enables eSports companies to tailor live feeds to each destination’s requirements, adding relevant graphic overlays and language settings as well as ensuring format compatibility. This geographically distributed environment requires seamless networking – not only to allow for efficient collaboration between teams in different locations, but also to get access to a global pool of talents – a necessity now more than ever.
Harnessing the monetisation potential
While sports is a key driver of linear TV consumption, a key downside is the lack of personalisation when it comes to what viewers are consuming visually in the fabric and infrastructure of the stadiums. This is a missed opportunity for media companies, sports organizations, and advertisers to generate more advertising income and boost Return on Investment (ROI).
As a cloud-native sport, eSports can overcome this limitation by leveraging the power of cloud technology to create more revenue streams. eSports is data-driven — It is born out of and delivers powerful data analytics. This data can be utilised by the eSports industry players and advertisers to curate the virtual environment and personalise it to distribution demographics and even individual fans — monetizing content along the way. From targeted advertising, including tailored graphics and banners, to second-screen content, the opportunities to ‘speak’ to each hyper-engaged viewer and sell this real estate are limitless — thanks to the power of the cloud.
Winning the game
Cloud technology has reshaped sports by producing and transporting live feeds from physical venues to the cloud for distribution to linear and digital platforms. eSports is taking this process further. AR esports lives and breathes the cloud — it is created, distributed, and monetized in the cloud. Regardless of their physical location, fans are taken along the journey enjoying unparalleled experiences.
eSports seamlessly combines the physical and virtual worlds to create fascinating athletic and viewing experiences. The power of super-fast, low latency, and reliable connectivity enables athletes and fans from anywhere in the world to come together and eSports to be born. Industry players have a host of new revenue opportunities at a greater scale to tap into — it’s a win-win scenario for everyone.
With cloud and AR innovation accelerating, so will the production and distribution potential of eSports, making it even more exciting and engaging for larger audiences worldwide — and more profitable for the industry.
In a time when technology doesn’t cease to amaze us, eSports promises to take us on a unique journey.
Are you ready?