Gaming and esports analytics firm Newzoo (a part of Leaders Group, the portfolio of which includes The Esports Observer) has announced its five trends to watch in the esports industry for 2021. The company analyzed how last year’s move to a fully online ecosystem and the continuing COVID-19 pandemic will shape the industry going forward.
First, Newzoo identifies a continued growth of mobile esports toward the “upper echelon,” identifying the high peak viewer counts for PUBG Mobile and Garena Free Fire specifically. Due to their continued growth in China, South and Southeast Asia, and Latin America, Newzoo stated that both games are now top five esports titles.
Newzoo also noted that esports teams will look to continue to diversify their operations, moving further away from traditional sport structures. The company noted in its report that “the pandemic has exposed some of the key challenges esports faces when emulating the sports model, highlighting the need for esports to evolve beyond the traditional sports framework.
Teams such as 100 Thieves have already established their brands as more than competitive gaming entities through lifestyle apparel, content creation, and influencer marketing. In particular, the report notes the various advantages of signing content creators to an esports team such as the additional assets for sponsor activations, negotiating power with platforms, and the additional resources provided to the content creator.
As esports moves away from the traditional sports model, Newzoo said that traditional sports will look to esports for its way forward. Having taken a significant hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional sports organizations will look to innovate and expand their activities in the esports space.
With travel still limited for the foreseeable future, 2021 will likely be another year with a greater focus on league-based play and regional competition instead of the typical year’s heavy focus on international events. This could have a long-lasting result in reshaping some esports ecosystems which previously followed a more travel-focused tournament schedule.
Finally, Newzoo noted that streaming platforms will continue to grow their non-gaming content categories. Last year, Just Chatting became the overwhelming leader among all Twitch categories, and that trend will continue as given the significant boom in viewership Twitch and YouTube have seen during the pandemic.
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