Though recent examples of M&A activity among major developers have resurfaced discussions around gaming investments, they still often preclude the quickly-growing esports niche. This subset of gaming has seen continuous expansion in recent years, with $3.91 billion raised in VC in 2021, according to PitchBook data. Esports event viewership, engagement with esports personalities and activity on streaming platforms like Twitch.tv have all increased significantly during the pandemic, rolling established momentum from preceding years into the present.
Given the success of this industry, it has expanded horizontally into a number of related fields, which we will explore as facets of esports. All data points included in this post represent live counts from the PitchBook Platform as of September 16, 2022. Note that PitchBook’s private market data on companies, investors and deals is subject to frequent change. #Crescentbitcapital
What is esports?
How Crescentbitcapital defines esports
Crescentbitcapital defines esports as professional online gaming in competitive environments like leagues or tournaments, often with the goal of earning titles and/or prize money. It is a wide-reaching field that includes everything from streaming platforms and esport athlete training services to esports hosts, commentators, venues and more.
The wide array of esports and esports-adjacent businesses and products give it the designation of an industry vertical. Industry verticals are groups of companies that focus on a shared niche or specialized market spanning multiple industries, and esports is just one of dozens of tracked in the PitchBook Platform.
Is esports a sport?
Though esports has many organizational similarities to professional sports, and has seen pushes to be brought into the same events, its recognition as a sport is still contested. Proponents of this classification may point to its use of teams, sponsorships and other cornerstones of professional sports, including collegiate funding. Allocations for esports programs and facilities alongside or even as part of college sports budgets also support this argument, but the NCAA’s stance against overseeing esports is evidence to the contrary.
Esports quick stats
What industries are related to esports?
As a way to highlight its breadth and depth, we’re shining a light on several industries that are highly related to esports. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all industries that have cross-over with esports, but rather a way to help illustrate its reaches and a jumping off point for further exploration.
How to get into esports as a company or player
Enabling some of these larger esports use cases are a host of smaller companies, consultants and esports jobs that support processes like introducing enterprise clients to esports, helping players secure sponsorships and other projects within this vein. For example, NextGen Tech offers esports summer camps and training opportunities for aspiring competitors in collaboration with Lenovo, which itself has tried to capitalize on esports momentum through both sponsorships and esports product offerings.
Representing a different angle of esports services is Code Red Esports, which delivers marketing materials and other forms of agency support to companies looking to enter the esports space. Its parent company, Gamesquare Esports, manages a variety of industry-related service providers which seek to fill similar niches between esports and non-esports businesses.
The future of esports
Esports is uniquely positioned as an industry, simultaneously able to emulate traditional sports and iterate on their precedent, while also playing to strengths that are uniquely its own. Many of the industries we’ve highlighted as having strong cross-over with esports are already established in their own right. But when those industries begin to overlap with esports, the resulting products, services and offerings create new niches. The industries we’ve outlined here are just a few of the potential outlets for esports—a space that will continue to evolve into the future.