Happy Monday, y’all! So I wanted to talk about one story only this Monday, but it’s a biggie.
For the past few years, eSports has been a growing phenomenon, fueled by the massive popularity of streaming site Twitch. I’ve written constantly about Twitch in particular, and how the streamers AKA ‘content creators’ are doing some amazing marketing and building impressive online communities.
For years, Twitch held almost a deathgrip on the streaming industry. It was the one and only powerhouse, in fact it seemed as if people had more loyalty toward the Twitch platform than the streamers themselves. This was quite apparent in 2019 when Microsoft’s would-be Twitch competiror Mixer signed away two of Twitch’s biggest streamers, Ninja and Shroud, to an exclusive deal.
It was a watershed moment for the streaming industry, and for the first time, Twitch would be tested for dominance in the streaming space.
How did it go? Less than a year later, Mixer folded and Ninja and Shroud both returned to Twitch.
So Twitch’s place at the top of the streaming space was cemented. Or was it?
When covid lockdowns took place early last year, it suddenly meant that a lot of us were spending a lot more time at home. One of the big winners was the streaming community. Growth hit another level, there was so much hunger for streamed video game content that sites such as YouTube and even Facebook began to benefit.
Then last June, DrDisrespect, one of the most popular streamers on Twitch, was suddenly banned. And still to this day, no one really knows why. Doc eventually settled on moving to YouTube, and in August had his first stream on Youtube.
— GuardanatorYT (@Guardanator) August 7, 2020
Doc’s first stream on YouTube peaked at half a million concurrent viewers, shattering the amount of viewers he ever saw on a single Twitch stream. Suddenly, YouTube Gaming wasn’t an afterthought, and the site’s foray into streaming continues to grow rapidly. Doc’s banning from Twitch may have indirectly catapulted streaming to a whole new level.
eSports Goes Mainstream
Last Thursday, this happened:
For the first time in its 67-yr history, an esports organization is on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
— Boardroom (@boardroom) June 10, 2021
I’ve written about NickMercs here before, but he is rapidly growing in popularity and could soon become the most popular streamer in the world. His being featured on the cover of the new Sports Illustrated is testament to his growing popularity, but also the insane growth of the streaming community as a whole.
eSports and streaming is about to become VERY VERY big. There’s several reasons for this.
First, as eSports gets mainstream exposure, businesses are going to realize these streamers are the ideal influencers that they want to connect with. They have huge audiences but, they also have, due to the chat and interactive functionality of streaming sites, the ability to better connect with their audiences. Streamers with millions of followers still have the ability to single out and even chat with individual followers live in a way that they really can’t do on other social media platforms. It’s a massive advantage from a community-building aspect. When companies figure this out, billions are gonna flow toward sponsorship deals. Yes, I said BILLIONS.
Second, athletes are beginning to jump into streaming, which will only accelerate mainstream coverage and adoption. The above SI cover features 6 members of the eSports organization FaZe Clan. Two of them are Bronny James, the son of LeBron James, and another is Kyler Murray, former Heisman Trophy winner and current starting QB for the Arizona Cardinals. Soon we will begin to see more celebrities adopting eSports as well, and that will only lead to more eyeballs, and more growth.
Finally, eSports isn’t really political like other major sports have become. eSports simply focuses on the games and the community of fans and streamers that love them. In recent years, major sports leagues like the NBA, NFL and MLB have increasingly taken political stances, and audiences have repeatedly said they don’t want politics mixed with their sports. This means more people will be checking out eSports, especially the highly desirable 18-34 age demographic.
So I wanted to do a full post on eSports today. If you work in marketing, please do yourself a favor and invest some time with a few popular streamers and see how they market themselves, and how they build their community of fans. Some of my favorites include NickMercs, DrDisrespect, CourageJD and TimTheTatMan. You can learn so much about marketing and especially connecting with millennials by watching their streams.
Streaming and eSports will have a big year in 2021. Let’s come back to this in 2022 and see if I was right!