The Fortnite World Cup and The E-Sports Tipping Point

For many of us not in the Gen Y or Gen Z category, it is hard to relate to the growth of E-sports and the commentary that E-sports will be as big if not bigger than other sports categories. As hard as it may seem to believe, this image will help cement why this is a likely tipping point for E-Sports players.

This post details the winner, 16-year-old Kyle Giersdorf who only started playing the game two years ago and currently spends 7-8 hours a day playing Fortnite. But given the size of the winnings, and the sheer size of Fornite’s player base is going to turn heads and continue to draw attention to E-sports tournaments.

The Global Scope
One of the main themes I’ve been writing about the last year is the true digital global platform that is emerging for video games and as a result, E-sports. I’ve noted the cross-platform trend of games to allow gamers everywhere in the world, on any hardware and software platform, to play together is a relatively new development. That theme is going to extend to every game, and there will be no world where platform exclusives make business or customer sense any longer.

The result of developers taking advantage of the cloud to bring their game to gamers on all platforms is the sheer size of their market opportunity. This market opportunity opens up financial scope not seen before in the video game world which, as the $3 million purses for the Fortnite World Cup proves, means even larger financial winnings.

As if Epic, the owner/developer of Fortnite, is not already making more money than they know what to do with, once a game reaches this scale they can make money off the entry fees, which 40-50m people participated in qualifying games, as well as the tickets to watch the final. All similar business models exist for E-Sports as do with other sports genres just at a completely different scale.

Fortnite will be used as the template for success for many developers and publishers, and that model is the way forward when it comes too gaming.

Race to a Billion
The only other sport that has the global scale of E-sports, currency, is soccer. The FIFA World Cup is a global event and draws ~1 billion viewers. I have no doubt that E-sports will catch the world cup in viewership at some point, and ultimately surpass it. But the same fundamentals that help the World Cup achieve its scale apply to E-Sports.

Soccer/Futbol is also the highest paying sport for its athletes. Another dynamic I think will come to E-Sports in the not too distant future. Again, the economics of global scale in the digital age is just simply larger than any physical sport can achieve and as the young generations get older and gaming becomes more a central part of the world, it is likely its popularity surpasses non-digital sports.

Fortnite’s success and the Fornite World Cup is the tipping point that in ten years, we will look back on as the thing that fueled E-sports to whatever size and scale it becomes.

The Sports Debate
The last thing I want to mention is the criticism I hear the most, which is E-sports should not be considered a sport. I’m sensitive to this, and I see the arguments on each side. While the physical side of E-sports, meaning the strength training, conditioning, physicality, athleticism, and other elements of physical sports are not a part of E-sports, one could argue the mental side is as challenging.

But the bigger point, despite how one feels about what should constitute as a sport, is why E-Sports enables a similar dynamic is the rarity of humans who can make up the small percentage to be the best at any given E-sports title.

Scarcity is valuable, and there will be this dynamic in E-Sports just as much as there is in physical sports. That alone justifies the similar dynamics and economics that will be enabled with the E-Sports genre.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

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