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US eSports revenues forecast to reach $299m in 2021

PwC's 2017 Global Entertainment and Media Outlook report forecasts VR and eSports as two of the fastest-growing entertainment and media segments but they will remain comparatively tiny.

By 2021, PwC projects that 68 million VR headsets will be in use in the US and eSports sponsorship revenue in the US is projected to almost double from 2016 to 2021 ($44m to $84m). VR content revenue will increase from $421m in 2016 to $5bn in 2021, a CAGR of 64% over the five-year time frame. Meanwhile, eSports is forecast to reach $299m in 2021, nearly tripling from $108m in 2016.

The report further mentioned: “The development of eSports has grown at a breakneck pace in the US over recent years, receiving perhaps its biggest boost into the mainstream when ESPN began covering major events on both its streaming and regular channels — most notably the August 2015 final of The International, a tournament for Defense of the Ancients 2 (Dota 2)."

The venues being used for major tournaments such as the 2016 League of Legends World Championship were sold out at Madison Square Garden and Staples Center. PwC highlights that the sports consumer ticket sales revenue is projected to increase last year from $11m to $26m in 2021.

Moreover, Philadelphia 76ers’ (NBA) who became the first U.S. professional sports franchise to purchase eSports franchises will enjoy the being first advantage. Philadelphia's 76ers eSports women's team - Team Dignitas is ranked no. 2 in the world and they are moving to Sixers new Training Complex in Philadelphia next week for “Sixers Bootcamp” (meeting with Sixers trainers, nutritionists, brand marketers, etc.)

PwC's publication stated: “If the space continues to grow exponentially, sports teams such as the 76ers that become early movers will have the upper hand — as well as a usefully sized stadium for hosting tournaments” stands true as we requested Philadplhia 76ers for the official figures for Team Dignitas which states that their 71% fans are aged between 18-24 while rest 24% between 25-34 and in the 262,009 Minute Streamed in 2016 , they received 2.5 billion sponsor impressions across player stream.

Earlier this year, the NBA also announced its plans for a 2K esports league, with 17 teams set to participate next year and we interviewed MD Brendan Donohue who enlightened us about its marketing prospects.

The report further stated: "The formula for success is shifting radically. No longer is it enough to develop content for eyeballs. Now, you must create a fan-centric business.”

The Drum spoke to Sanjit Atwal, co-founder, creative director and lead writer at Dark Site - VR & eSports who stated: "Whilst the convergence of the VR and eSports markets are seemingly an obvious new route for games and brands, it is still very much in its infancy. The growth of eSports has traditionally centered around two main areas – the games themselves and the celebrity status and pull of the gamers & teams. The VR eSports market does not currently support this model due to lack of endemic games – something that would in turn lead to new gamers entering the field."

He further added, "Original VR games, geared towards multiplayer competition, are required to truly build a lasting industry however many of the large developers and publishing companies are reticent to throw $150m at a problem they don’t know will return ROI. A major inhibitor to the VR market is the cost of entry for a consumer, however this is an issue that will be solved over the coming years as all of the major tech companies gear themselves for large VR/AR hardware and software pushes – the economics of which will push down the costs and accessibility for consumers. The marketing these companies commit to will help the industry overall. "

The Drum's forthcoming eSports documentary presented by reporter John McCarthy will be released this summer.