There are 6 parts of an esports community to consider when planning a marketing campaign and every community has slight differences. As esports continues to grow there will be natural evolution in each of these parts. This article looks at what we consider the most important aspects and some examples of how they have developed in the past few years.
The playing community make up a large chunk of each esports community. Over the past 20 years tournament organisers, publishers and brands focused on the playing community. This was natural at the time because the technology for broadcasting online was expensive. Counter-strike has remained a top tier competitive title thanks to the size and passion of the playing community (Counter-strike was originally created in 1999).
Players formed into teams as some games naturally suited team vs. team play like in traditional sports. Today, the majority of the top esports titles and communities exist around team games. Examples include League of Legends, DOTA2, Counter-strike and Call of Duty. Teams are a key component of an esports community as they support structure and rivalries. One of the major early rivalries was between the teams sponsored by Intel – 4Kings from the UK and SK-Gaming from Germany. Both teams had started playing Quake and expanded into other game titles such as Counter-strike.
The creation of cups and leagues added to the structure inside each esports community. It enabled teams and players to determine who was the best. Tournaments also supported the creation of fans as elite players were recognised for their skills. In the early days the majority of tournaments were played online but as the audiences have grown we now regularly see offline events. Viewership of tournaments has increased as technology has made it easier to access and consume content.
When esports was in the first growth stage the technology for broadcast games and tournaments was still expensive. Games like Counter-strike had in-built spectator options but few companies were able to provide a broadcast. Early companies like Team Sportscast Network (TsN) and Radio ITG (ITG) provided online commentary. Now we have platforms like Twitch and Youtube which make the viewing experience a lot easier and cheaper.
As esports has moved from purely online to regularly having an offline element venues are starting to play a major role. Offline tournaments become a focal point in the tournament calendar. Supporting venues such as training facilities and gaming cafes have increased in number thanks to the growth of esports.
Throughout the growth of esports fans have been created around games, players, teams and tournaments. The ability to consume tournament content on demand has made it easier for fans to engage. Recent research suggests that large portions of several esports communities are now based on fans (viewers) who don’t play the game.
Parts of an esports community – marketing considerations
When creating marketing campaigns for esports it is important to consider how your proposed activations interact with these 6 parts. You could add streaming as an additional part of an esports community but we’ve positioned that as part of a game community, not strictly esports.
Venues and tournaments will provide branding opportunities. This could be sponsorship, a local activation at the venue or an online activation related to the tournament. If the tournament is an open (amateur) tournament there may also be data capture opportunities.
Broadcasts will also provide branding opportunities but platforms like Twitch support Extensions. These are parts added to a broadcast that enable fans (viewers) to connect and engage. This could be used for data capture such as a form submission for a giveaway. They could also be used to highlight specific product offers based around what happens in the game.
Teams support a different set of opportunities that include content creation by the star players, access to an existing fan audience and potentially existing fan data.
Think about how each of these parts of an esports community interact and overlap with your proposed marketing campaign. Do they make sense for each of these 6 parts?