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Gamers play the new Ubisoft Far Cry 5 on the opening day of E3 in Los Angeles last week. Photo: EPA

eSports front and centre at E3

Global audience for video game battles predicted to eclipse the numbers watching traditional real-world sports by 2020


Video game competition as spectator sport is now a major force that drives the industry, according to one leading eSports company.

Offerings at last week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles also showed that developers are building games with features to be attractive online spectator events.

“There are more people watching these games than playing them; it has more than crept into the design cycle,” says Craig Levine, head of eSports outfit ESL.

As competitive performance climbs as a priority, hardware makers push to field better computer chips, screens, controllers and more.

“eSports has one of the fastest growing audiences in not just video games but all of entertainment,” says Rich Taylor, senior vice-president of communications at the Electronic Software Association behind E3.

The eSports industry will accelerate from roughly US$200 million in revenue in 2015 to US$1 billion by 2018, according to Baird Equity Research estimates cited by E3 organisers.

In the coming three years, the global audience for eSports was predicted to grow to a half-billion viewers, eclipsing the numbers watching traditional real-world sports, according to Levine.

And, while the focus at E3 was on games for consoles or Windows-powered computers, mobile game play is consistently in top ranks when it comes to viewing, according to YouTube.

The gaming community is huge at Facebook, which returned to E3 this year with an area for live-streamed chats with developers and personalities, and where visitors could share thoughts about the show at the social network and capture memories with 3D or augment reality technology that put them into game scenes.

More than a third of that sharing came from women, who are a growing part of the gaming community, according to Facebook.

“We’ve seen this community of gamers continue to grow and evolve each year – with women now taking a growing share of the conversation around E3,” says Facebook head of global console and online gaming Franco DeCesare.

About 800 million members of the social network play at least one Facebook game monthly, according to director of global games partnerships Leo Olebe.

Facebook worked with ESL, video game giant Activision and others at E3 to create content for the social network.

“The fact that the player really is at the centre of everything is really powerful,” Olebe says.

“As the player takes a larger role in what’s happening inside our industry, Facebook is perfectly positioned to facilitate that process.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: How e-sports earned a front row seat at expo