Sebastian ‘Heflamoke’ Läger – A 2017 esports crystal ball

2016 was the kind of year for esports that makes January seems like a lifetime ago. Ahead of NYE we spoke to Sebastian ‘Heflamoke’ Läger, an esports consultant, about his predictions for what the industry can expect in 2017.  

Esports Insider: This year has clearly been a milestone in esports’ history. What were the most significant highlights in your opinion?

Sebastian: What’s certainly worth a mention is the market opening for further streaming solutions outside of the Twitch monopoly with Facebook, Twitter, television and more incoming.

At the same time the viewer experience and production value is increasing and I’d like to name PGL production as an example. The non-endemic movement into esports is what secures us its longevity. Traditional sports entities recognising this industry and taking a step closer is helping us to grow and give esports a superior structure.

“2016 was a year filled with highlights, but at least for the next five years I don’t think we will have a year fall short of that”

As a negative highlight, or lowlight, I’d list all the moves made to establish monopoly structures and control the market by enforcing exclusivity and other suppressive regulations. You can name the MTG, ESL and Dreamhack tandem, as well as ESForce holding, Twitch streaming, and all the organisations that are in theory ‘for the good’ but in reality just an extension of business tools, with WESA, PEA and more to come.

I don’t think many of these will survive, because a free market is required to grow and the power accumulated by some of these organisations will be diluted over time. At least that’s my hope, because we’ve seen in other industries what can happen if just one entity controls almost every part. 2016 was a year filled with highlights, but at least for the next five years I don’t think we will have a year fall short of that.

ESI: What will next year be like for Overwatch and Rocket League and their scenes? Any other ‘emerging’ esports titles on the radar?

Sebastian: Getting new titles on the market is always great, it means an expanded audience, new experiences and more diversity. That said, I am critical about how publishers tend to enter the esports industry. I think many aspects are highly counterproductive but of course all publishers are in a state of experimenting with their models.

“Publishers have started to push many titles in the competitive direction, many will fail but some will be awesome”

In the past we had a “Riot vs Valve”model, but now in 2016 we have far more diverse models in existence, as to whether that’s for better or worse only time will tell.

As for new emerging titles I would list something from the mobile and console market, such as Critical Ops and Fifa, but we will see what publishers come up with in 2017. It’s very clear what esports can and cannot do. Publishers have started to push many titles in the competitive direction, many will fail but some will be awesome.

ESI: Can you talk us through your other 2017 predictions for the industry? Will media rights be a big theme post-Riot/MLB?

Sebastian: There are so many things to be looked at so here they are in list form.

  1. In terms of revenue the industry will grow massively. One direction will be exploring new revenue sources in new markets, both regionally and in terms of technology such as the mobile and console markets. Another direction will be with existing assets we have already built in the current ecosystem, e.g. media rights and licensing across both online broadcasting and television.

We must also learn how to cater to the needs of those trying to get into esports. The advertising industry with all its capital has just scratched the surface so far. Our goal will be to provide reliable, creative and innovative solutions for their needs, as well as providing proper tracking and reporting of data. In other words, we have to translate esports into their language of numbers and targets. If this is aligned and paired with professionals from other industries coming into esports, ‘educating’ us, we will start synergizing much better with future revenue sources.

  1. New markets will be explored and I mean this on every level. We will see a lot more horizontal growth in 2017 and this will accelerate even more in the years to come. This means the expansion into markets, innovations and services not yet explored or developed.  We will see other markets catching up to the more developed regions rapidly, while the known market to us will expand alongside innovative new ideas.  

Mobile and console markets are awakening and pushing into an industry that so far was dominated by PC.

  1. Governing, regulations and politics. In the past we had so much freedom that it was close to unreal.

This dream will end because whenever there is money and growth involved, governing bodies and politics will follow. There are both upsides and downsides for this, but it will be a battle of epic magnitude for many years. Eventually however we all know who the winner will be. Just look at other industries and you can replicate a “close to that”-model. Fights like PEA vs WESA are just the beginning, they’re small in comparison to the things to come and right now these are mostly just business people that try to implement exclusivity and monopoly structures under the guise of “fairness” and “player rights”. None of that is true and it’s all about money and power at the end of the day.

“More and more names will discover esports as a better priced and targeted marketing campaign, and as it becomes more and more of a culture or a ‘movement’, you will also see brands desperate to be involved”

  1. Non-endemics. With the involvement of TV and progress in esports overall we will have a growing portfolio of brands in the industry. More and more names will discover esports as a better priced and targeted marketing campaign, and as it becomes more and more of a culture or a ‘movement’, you will also see brands desperate to be involved.

For me it was a big surprise how long it took some brands to come in and even now their involvement is small, experimental and reluctant. That will certainly change in the future. We’ll see more names, bigger involvement and greater impact in 2017 and the years to follow.

There are many more things to talk about but these four points are the most industry-shaping ones.

ESI: What will 2017 bring in terms of innovation, will VR or mobile be the new popular area of focus?

Sebastian: When it comes to VR I am extremely skeptical. Almost everyone around me hyped the VR push into the industry, but I only see (for now) a very limited application and it’s hard to scale.

“As for mobile I see a bright future, it could even be the fastest growing market in 2017”

As for mobile I see a bright future, it could even be the fastest growing market in 2017. Esports grows, and more people in general play games. With mobile we are tapping into markets that don’t have PCs or consoles as abundantly as those in the western world and as the word“mobile” states, it brings games to our daily life “on the go”, no matter if this is competitive or not. There is an amazing growth potential ahead.

ESI: Any new year’s resolutions you’d like to suggest for the industry at large?

Sebastian: I could write a book about this one! The industry is growing and maturing, but at the same time it’s far away from its relatives in the entertainment and sports industries.

Without going into details or naming and shaming I’d say that we should continue most of the things we started in 2016. There were no significant steps backwards in 2016 in my opinion. We should also encourage everyone to think bigger and more long-term. Today’s paradigm and monopoly is not a given anymore a year from now.

Esports changes every day and we have to start thinking about more than tomorrow, because one thing is certain, esports is here to stay for a long, long time.