137,000,000 is the number that appears when you simply type “ESports” into the virtual void that is Google.
You heard us, that’s 137 million related searches for anything ESports related as of the 20th November 2016. That’s more than the total search results for Crystal Palace, Quorn and Lancashire all put together.
It’s a slightly wayward comparison, we know, but it does one thing extremely clearly indeed: it puts into perspective the growing popularity this online world is building.
For some, it’s still batted away like somewhat of an annoyance. “How can an online sport be anything other than some 13-year-old playing FIFA in his Mom’s basement?”
Well, to put it quite simply, it’s about as far away from that as is humanly possible. The gap between ESports and original sporting affairs is closing and Chris Grove of Narus Advisors now believes that by 2020, ESports will have over 15million betting customers.
To crunch that figure a little we should take a look at original betting markets in the UK. Back in 2013, the Association of British Bookmakers filed data that suggested the LBO (Licensed Betting Office) is an entertainment business that holds around 8 million customers.
So essentially, if the prediction made by Chris Grove is correct, the ESPorts betting market will hold twice the power as the likes of Coral, Paddy Power and any other LBO-affiliated organisation. And that’s in just forty-eight months time, if current trends are sustained.
But it’s not just data that can show ESports is climbing in popularity- there are major players in the field that are beginning to bring it to the forefront of the public interest.
Louis Lemeillet is the marketing manager of Tricked ESports, an up-and-coming organisation that is trying to dominate the field in Denmark.
We spoke to Lemeillet about the growing popularity of the FIFA brand and how he sees that growing based on the work he’s done in marketing Tricked.
And he firmly believes key market leaders and the continued push between reality and virtual will be the factor in ensuring Grove’s prediction is realized.
“In five years time, I see a model that’ll be built around sports clubs and FIFA working together with EA to create the game’s FIFA Interactive World Cup,” he said.
“It will continue to link virtual and reality more and more- we may eventually have a Champions League with FIFA players representing the sports clubs- we already saw the premise of that with the Legia ESports Cup,” he added.
As for key influencers, he believes the key are former pros and “YouTubers”, those who create FIFA content and edit it for the internet as a full-time job.
“You have 2 types: the ex-pros and the YouTubers- they all gained some popularity and are joining more and more agency and media outlets to produce ESports content to bring to the masses.
“They’ll be the key influencers of tomorrow for me,” Lemeillet added.
It’s a thoroughly interesting debate which does continue to divide the worlds of the virtual and reality. But unfortunately for the doubters, the stats, drive and interest being generated by this market shows ESports is evolving day-by-day.
It’s becoming a very big deal indeed. Good luck trying to explain it to Great-Grandad Phil though…