2017 was a huge year for esports with immense progress made across the board, from sponsorships and investments to mammoth-prize money and increased mainstream coverage. The foundations have been firmly laid for continued growth throughout 2018. With that in mind, here are our New Year’s resolutions for esports going in to the New Year.
Improve professionalism in a youth-dominated market
A lack of professionalism has been a long-standing issue in esports – often a problem when granting young people anonymity on the internet. However, following the steps taken in recent years to evolve esports into a viable and respectable industry, it is about time this issue is tackled head on.
There were plenty of examples of poor professional conduct in 2017 alone. We saw; players cheating in online tournaments, being intoxicated at major events, and even stage hosts being disrespectful to competitors. Not only does this show esports in a poor light to newcomers, it also gives the wrong idea as to the kind of conduct that is deemed acceptable in an industry that many already have negative preconceived notions of, as well as disappointing existing fans.
There is, of course, the recent swatting case that took place in Kansas which saw an innocent man lose his life over a $2 Call of Duty wager match. The case made international news and again reflects poorly on the esports community. The industry most definitely doesn’t need added stigma in the mainstream press.
Going in to 2018, we must seek to develop a more professional image. Players should start being held to the same standard of top sporting personalities, especially as the two continue to converge.
Garner more mainstream media coverage
Alongside the industry growth, esports has started to have more of an impact on the mainstream over the last year. We’ve seen the UK’s largest national newspaper, the Daily Mail, hire their first full-time esports journalists. BBC Three provided weekly coverage for the Gfinity Elite Series and U.S. television channel TBS broadcast multiple ELEAGUE events, including titles such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Injustice 2.
This is a solid start, but there remains plenty of room for growth in this area. With the way esports is going, mainstream media outlets would be foolish to ignore it much longer and the extra exposure would only further endorse esports and enhance its appeal to some of the major sponsors and investors considering getting involved.
That being said, many outlets have tried to create content around esports and not had much success. GQ recently published an article subtly scoffing at esports and professional gamers, as well as the BBC ending a solid piece of coverage with questionable remarks about the players they had just interviewed. That said, coverage has generally improved in recent years, exemplified by the work being done by BBC Three, TBS and Daily Mail.
With NBA teams such as the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors making their moves into esports, as well as investments from the likes of Jennifer Lopez and major American sports entrepreneur Stan Kroenke, it makes sense that esports will continue to converge with the mainstream but it requires a unified effort to further legitimise esports to those on the outside.
Improved communications between organisations and media
This links very closely with the previous point, but is just as important in itself. Often, teams make major decisions, such as agreements with notable sponsors, but lack PR representation to share the news. This, in turn, weakens the reach and value of any commercial deals or announcements. Having representative agencies or in-house PR staff to create and share press releases with the relevant outlets could have huge benefits in introducing teams or players to a wider audience.
Some of the larger organisations are now doing this, and so this may be something that comes as a result of a general development in stability for teams across the board. Regardless, it should certainly be high up on the agenda of any organisation who wishes to make a real splash in esports in the long term.
Better esports education from a UK perspective
As esports continues to grow, so too does the number of people wanting to get involved in an industry that seems very selective from the outside. In 2017, we saw steps being made towards providing a better education of esports to people from a variety of backgrounds. Staffordshire University introduced their esports degree, set to start this year, and the University of Leicester partnered with ESL UK to “provide students with valuable insights into esports business”.
Further down the scale, the British Esports Association ran a fantastic scheme, bringing an esports after-school club to Maida Vale library, for local schoolchildren between the ages of 10-13. Here, children could try their hand at playing Rocket League as well as casting, and were able to listen to talks from British Esports Association volunteers. More recently there has been good work done by the team over at XIII Esports, again with a focus on grassroots in the UK.
The UK continues to lag behind in many major esports titles and education is imperative to break the perceived social stigma around esports and video games. In areas where esports education is more prevalent, such as South Korea and Scandinavia, esports has become highly respected and understood on a wider scale.
It cannot be stated quite how far esports has come in the last year alone, but should the aforementioned be fulfilled, the sky really is the limit. Some of the biggest names and brands in the world have invested in esports and should we make smart decisions, esports will continue to flourish.