eSports – If you’ve been looking for a wake-up call, it’s arrived!

The world’s most-awaited annual powerpoint deck (seriously, it’s a thing) came out last week. Fully updated for 2017, Mary Meeker’s 355-slide Internet Trends Report is a geek-fest for everyone with an interest in technology.

That’s a lot of slides, but let’s cut to the chase for sports professionals – we are in some ways sitting on the edge of a demographic cliff. Look beyond whatever’s going on in the dynamics of our local clubs, and there’s a significant mega-trend underway. The impact of eSports is already very real, and accelerating – and where growth goes, so, eventually, does the money.

To crystalise the scope of the issue for traditional sports, let’s focus on just one slide (#140) from Meeker’s report:

Mary Meeker - traditional vs eSports

Original data source: http://www.lek.com/sites/default/files/1912_Sports_Survey_Part_1a.pdf

To pull out the highlight - millennials – roughly those born between 1982 and 2004 – who have at least a slight interest in eSports are just as likely to be prefer supporting their favourite eSports team than a traditional sporting team.

If you’re wondering why the Adelaide Crows bought a professional eSports team, Legacy (who play in the regional League of Legends competition) last month, look no further. In just the past 6 months, there have been major traditional-to-eSports acquisitions worldwide, and the AFL has hardly been coy about its plans to turn the newly-acquired Etihad stadium into an eSports hallmark event venue.

This space is growing so quickly, no-one knows exactly what the final shape will take for traditional sports. But it’s a pretty sure bet that we’ll see a lot more cross-over activities – in the form of new eSports teams created, new games developed (where is that killer AFL game to rival FIFA’s success?), and straight-out acquisitions made to counter the looming demographic crisis for traditional sports.