Insights

Five Takeaways from “Esports: Winning is Just the Beginning” with Bruce Stein at Web Summit 2019

December 18, 2019 By Lizzie Leader, Director of Communications

Lisbon may be one of Europe’s oldest and most historical cities, but for a few days each fall it is also “where the future goes to be born” as the world’s leading innovators and entrepreneurs descend on the Portuguese capital to attend Web Summit. Dubbed the largest tech conference on the planet, the annual event showcases over 1,200 thought leaders from the fields of technology, entertainment, politics, and sports. At this year’s Summit — held November 3-7— the speaker lineup included Tony Blair, Edward Snowden, Jaden Smith and our own Bruce Stein, aXiomatic Co-Founder & CEO. Bruce took to the Web Summit ContentMakers stage for a keynote presentation entitled “Esports: Winning is Just the Beginning.”

In this talk, Bruce introduced aXiomatic Gaming and its portfolio, then took the audience on a mind-expanding journey where the esports of today comprise just the tip of a very large iceberg of global, participatory, next-generation media creation and consumption. The keynote is full of analysis and insights, but for those who want the skinny on the quick, we’ve highlighted our five favorite moments below.

#1 – “The whole conversation about whether esports players are actual ‘athletes,’ or whether it’s a pro sports game or not, is meaningless. What’s meaningful is that the audience is something that content makers cannot ignore.”

Why It Matters

In the past, the esports industry often struggled to gain recognition in mainstream media due to an ongoing debate about whether esports counted as ‘sports.’ At aXiomatic, we believe this debate misses the point entirely. We see esports as a cultural sea change in the way that Millennials and Generation Z consume and engage with content. What’s more, many people in this demographic are harder to reach with traditional forms of media and entertainment, making esports impossible for content creators to overlook as a medium for reaching a huge, growing, and valuable audience.

#2 – “The size of the esports market relative to the broader gaming market is like comparing the size of Portugal to that of the European Union.”

Why It Matters

When thinking about the growth potential of esports, it’s important to recognize the enormous existing market for video games ($150B in 2019 revenues vs. $1B for esports) — a global audience that’s already highly engaged and hungry for innovative content. From a media perspective, esports represent the cutting edge of new approaches to serve this demographic, and the lines are blurring rapidly between what is considered “esports content” and “gaming content.” The current boom in esports is just the beginning of the industry’s potential to influence media consumption habits for a significant percentage of the world population.

#3 – “The Marshmello concert had 10.8M simultaneous viewers, so the best attended gig in all of music history occurred in the game of Fortnite.”

Why It Matters

Fortnite by Epic Games (an aXiomatic partner company) is a great example of esports as a gateway into new content experiences at a scale we’ve never seen before in human history. While competition is a key aspect of the game and why people engage with it, Epic is using that momentum to expand beyond typical “esports” content and provide consumers with opportunities to do things in the world of Fortnite that would be difficult or impossible in real life, like attending a live concert for the hit DJ Marshmello with 10 million of their online friends. Digitally connected spaces are the new frontier for music and other entertainment events trying to reach a young and online-savvy audience — how will artists and traditional platforms adapt?

#4 – “Spectator gaming’s skyrocketing growth has the potential to transcend all categories: it’s a sport, it’s a broadcast event, it’s social media, it’s content … The ability of this new content format to tolerate story is just being explored now.”

Why It Matters

The gold standard of traditional entertainment media is creating rich IP that can be explored and expanded through storytelling in movies, TV shows, books, and more. Video games have long flown under the radar in this respect, but the scale and quality of modern game worlds combined with their native affinity for new media platforms mean the time is ripe for an explosion of innovation in story-driven content through the rapidly-evolving global conduit of esports. Five or 10 years from now, the change in the way we experience storytelling media from today may be as great as the shift from radio to television.

#5 – “There are games for everyone and for everyone there is a type of game. People don’t grow out of games — they grow out of a title, no different than they might change a TV show.”

Why It Matters

A common misconception about video gaming is that it’s primarily for young people who end up moving on to other forms of entertainment once they are adults, so the appeal and longevity of esports and gaming media is assumed to be limited. The truth is that the video game industry is now just as expansive and inclusive as television, movies, and books, so people from all walks of life and all ages are playing video games and enjoying gaming content. The faster traditional media industries understand and adapt to this reality, the greater the opportunity to connect with a vast audience searching for new and innovative forms of entertainment.

Interested in more examples of esports revolutionizing the new wave of media? Check out our handpicked selection of stories on axio.gg for Web Summit audiences and connect with us on Twitter at @aXiomaticGaming.