ESPORTS AND THE METAVERSE – SPONSORSHIP POTENTIAL
Esports, which refers to competitive video gaming, has gained immense popularity and can be traced back to the 1970s. With the rise of the metaverse – a virtual world where people can interact and engage with each other – Esports has found a new platform for growth and innovation.
The metaverse, often accessed through technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality, provides an immersive and engaging experience for spectators of Esports events. Viewers can explore virtual venues, interact with other spectators, and watch matches from multiple perspectives, enhancing the overall spectator experience. Platforms like Twitch and YouTube have played a significant role in streaming Esports events and connecting players with their audiences.
Now that we have some context, we can look at how Esports and the metaverse can complement each other, and how they can be leveraged to generate value.
Firstly, Esports can thrive in the metaverse as virtual entertainment thanks to spectatorship and broadcasting.
Virtual reality and augmented reality technologies allow viewers to feel as though they are physically present at events, increasing engagement and immersion. The Fortnite Travis Scott concert, which attracted over 45.8 million viewers and 27.7 million unique viewers across 5 events, could serve as an example of a spectator event in the metaverse.
Fortnite has hosted several concerts of same magnitude with artists including Ariana Grande, Marshmello and many more.
The metaverse can also be used as a space to create gaming venues, that is virtual stadiums and arenas designed specifically for esports competitions, which can accommodate large crowds and create immersive settings for both players and spectators. Immortals Gaming Club (IGC), a US Esports organization, has teamed up with the Brazilian organization MIBR to establish a virtual Esports arena in the metaverse.
In terms of in-game Integration, the metaverse can facilitate cross-game interactions and provide platforms for Esports competitions within virtual arenas created by game developers. With Meta, as can be seen, players can interact and compete in the metaverse.
Then, in the metaverse, players can create avatars and customize them according to their preferences, so players can develop and personalize their virtual esports personas, enhancing their visibility and identification as Esports competitors.
Finally, virtual marketplaces are another useful application within the space. The metaverse can offer virtual marketplaces where players, teams, and organizations can buy, sell, and trade virtual goods, merchandise, and sponsorships, creating economic opportunities for Esports.
In South Africa, the esports scene is growing, and it is expected to reach a market value of R1.1 billion in 2023. Major events like the Telkom VS Gaming Masters and organizations like Mettlestate are contributing to the development of Esports in the country. The integration of the metaverse and Esports in South Africa can bring several benefits, including the following:
- Competitive Gaming Opportunities: South African Esports athletes can compete on an international stage within the metaverse, expanding their reach and exposure.
- Infrastructure and Connectivity: Investments in digital infrastructure and reliable connectivity are crucial to support the growth of Esports and ensure a seamless metaverse experience for South African gamers.
- Inclusivity and Representation: The metaverse provides an inclusive space for gamers from diverse backgrounds, fostering community engagement and diverse participation in Esports events.
- Virtual Training and Development: The metaverse offers virtual training environments and opportunities for skill development, connecting experienced players with newcomers and supporting the growth of the Esports ecosystem.
- Entrepreneurship and Content Creation: The metaverse enables South African gamers, streamers, and content creators to showcase their talents, monetize their content, and tap into the virtual economy.
- Virtual Spectatorship and Fan Engagement: The metaverse enhances spectatorship in Esports, allowing South African fans to participate in virtual arenas, interact with other fans, and support their favourite players or teams.
- Collaborative Partnerships: Collaboration among Esports organizations, game developers, technology companies and government entities is crucial to drive infrastructure development and establish South Africa as a hub for Esports and metaverse-related activities.
The demographics of the audience impacted by Esports and the metaverse reveal important insights into the target market for brands investing in this ecosystem. According to Global Web Index (GWI) data, the majority of Esports fans and individuals interested in the metaverse are males, comprising over 75% and 69% of the audience, respectively. Additionally, over 60% of the audience falls within the 16 to 24 age group, indicating a significant youth demographic. The province of Gauteng stands out as the most popular region for Esports and the metaverse, while most of the audience belongs to the low to middle-income bracket, making it a crucial target segment for brands seeking to engage with these technologies.
For South Africa specifically, gaming is already a prominent activity, with 39% of the population identifying as gamers. Smartphones are the preferred gaming device for 82% of gamers in the country, emphasizing the significance of mobile gaming accessibility.
The most popular gaming genres include racing, shooting, and sports games, with FIFA being a notable favourite. Moreover, over 20% of South Africans express an interest in the metaverse and 32% show enthusiasm for Esports. Technology also plays a crucial role, as more than 82% of South African metaverse fans express a keen interest in technological advancements.
Considering these demographics, brands investing in the Esports-metaverse ecosystem can expect to engage primarily with a young male audience aged 16 to 24, predominantly residing in Gauteng and falling into the lower to middle-income bracket. Understanding the specific audience demographics is essential for brands to tailor their strategies and content to effectively resonate with this tech-savvy and gaming-oriented demographic in South Africa.
The following visualisations depict these GWI stats:
In conclusion – by embracing the metaverse and leveraging its potential, the Esports scene in South Africa can expand, develop local talent and gain exposure on a global scale, creating a thriving environment for participants, fans, and content producers which can also lead to massive opportunities in the sponsorship world.