The growth of eSports has been so explosive over the past several years that we can almost forget to look to the future. It’s almost as if we treat the industry like a done deal or a finished product simply because it’s achieved great success and can, as countless articles have pointed out, challenge some conventional sports for viewership numbers. In focusing so much on the present power of eSports though, we neglect to imagine what its future might look like.
Taking a moment to speculate about what still might be to come, we came up with five things we may be talking about five more years into the growth of eSports.
1. A Greater Variety Of Fighting Games
A handful of game genres that revolve around direct multiplayer competition tend to be best suited to eSports, and fighting games are certainly among them. This is why you often see a focus on Super Smash Bros. games and events just beneath the most popular of eSports competition games (like Starcraft or DOTA). However, we almost haven’t seen as much activity surrounding fighters as would make sense. Aside from Smash Bros. and Street Fighter V, there isn’t that much focus on what is ultimately one of the most relatable and beloved styles of gaming suitable for eSports. We’d expect this to change, even if somewhat subtly, in the next few years. Between new iterations of classic franchises, potential for a massive Marvel fighter (now that Marvel is focusing more on console gaming), and the possibility of brand new games developed specifically to fill this void, we’ll probably be talking more about fighting games.
2. Rival Teams & Famous Gamers
If you follow eSports closely you could probably name some teams and noteworthy gamers who have had tight, thrilling competitions with one another. What eSports is still missing in a broad sense though is really a community of recognizable teams and “athletes.” This could just be a matter of time, or it may be a function of inadequate marketing, but one way or another it is likely to change if eSports keeps growing. In time even casual observers will likely become aware of at least a few headline gamers or some rival teams, ultimately making eSports that much more similar to regular sporting leagues.
3. Futuristic Racing In VR
It’s surprising we’re not talking more about how virtual reality will change eSports. This may be a result of the somewhat muted impact VR has had on gaming in particular, but it’s also probably a little shortsighted. VR will have a bigger impact, and may be most likely to make it through brand new types of competition rather than just more immersive versions of existing games. Futuristic racing opportunities are just some of the examples that come to mind. Some have noted that VR opens the door to Tron-like competitions, and “pod racing” (from Star Wars) is said to be pretty awesome in VR already. Activities like these, either through basic VR or, possibly, with accompanying machines that mimic vehicles for competitors, could take eSports by storm.
4. Lucrative Betting Communities
The betting business has never been more accessible than it is today. Instead of having to duck into a casino or sportsbook facility, you can simply log online and find the listings you’re looking for. There are welcome schemes to take advantage of, different odds to compare on different platforms, and ultimately betting options for more events, circumstances, and outcomes than most could possibly imagine. To date, eSports has occupied just a fraction of this industry. As the sport grows though, betting interest will grow with it, and at the same time it appears to be on the path to broader regulation in the U.S., which is one of the busiest eSports countries. Combining these factors, we expect to be talking and hearing a lot more about eSports betting in another five years.
5. Brand Name Arenas
Right now, eSports tends to be thought of as something that can take over an all-purpose arena in a given night, or even take place in a large convention center. Major events have on some occasions occupied portions of very famous stadiums such as Wembley Arena in London, or the Staples Center in Los Angeles. We’ve only just dipped our toes into the idea of eSports-specific arenas, however, and with more money and interest flowing into the sport, it’s likely that such arenas will be emerging with more regularity. So, on the business side of things, we can probably expect to be getting used to some of these venues, likely with major brand names attached.