With fears of a recession, the smart money is looking for new markets that will weather the storm. Some eyes have turned to a growing demographic that has already generated strong returns: the rapidly growing world of esports, aka E-Sports, aka competitive video gaming.
Set to surpass the $1 billion mark, esports shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. As association and corporate events reach their saturation point and continuing to grapple with flat budgets and shrinking attendance, the new industry of esports, with its broad appeal and growing fan base, has grown rapidly. And convention managers are keen to notice.
The Millennial generation does not have the same love of traditional sports as other generations, and are more interested in the rich diversity of games and experiences offering on PC or console.
Many are not yet familiar with the core idea of esports. But it is no different than popular video games, such as Fortnite, League of Legends, Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, Overwatch, Minecraft and Madden NFL, but played at a professional level, with tournaments and prizes. People from all over the world compete in real-time, and thousands watch through youtube or Twitch, fanatically following their favorite athletes.
In world of esports, competitors from different leagues or teams play while millions of spectators from across the world watch on TV, online or from the audience.
It is big business, and Las Vegas has already gotten in on the action.
The Global Esports Market Report for 2018 estimated 380 million people watched esports last year, and suggested there are as many as 165 million dedicated esports enthusiasts. With those numbers, esports is already on track to have a global monthly audience larger than Major League Baseball or the National Hockey League.
Las Vegas is also aboard the esports train. Already investing heavily in the related field of virtual reality entertainment, esports is a natural transition for a city already experienced in the gaming world.
MGM Resorts began hosting major esports events several years ago. At the time, it was thought a risky and aggressive leap, but by building HyperX Esports Arena at The Luxor in partnership with Allied Sports in 2017, they have locked down an entire market that is no where near its full potential.
Looking for other revenue sources that could help diversify their entertainment options, they saw esports as a coming wave. Connecting with sponsors, players, and the community early has given them a strong presence that is bringing more and more attendance.
There is much more to MGM’s esports strategy. They are also catering to the actual players with new experiences and offerings. Lounges, décor, console games and more are popping up all over the city. Look no further than the Level Up lounge at the MGM Grand, or the new additions to the LINQ, such as their Re:Match bar, Book, and eSports Lounge.
They have even partnered with influencers, developing content and events that will bring the culture of gaming into nightclubs, shopping, dining and events.
Even the music festivals are pairing with gaming. The new Metarama, which is backed by some serious juice, such as the people behind Austin City Limits, has combined the great musical acts you would expect, with some hardcore gaming. They think it will become a permanent festival, and grow year-after-year.
So, if you have noticed a few more gaming experiences, expect to see a lot more. This is where the money is for the future, and may become a new pillar for the Las Vegas economy.