From outdoor games to arcade games to games on PCs and consoles to mobile game, gaming ‘platforms’ have come a long way. With each new platform comes a new style and visual of gaming. However, one thing remains the same – the competition. Be it the group of students who first competed in Spacewar! at Stanford University in 1972 or the teams facing off against each other at esports tournaments worldwide today, all of them are in it for two reasons – the love of gaming and the prize.

Esports today: A lucrative opportunity?

Esports, essentially, means video gaming competitions. Today, it comprises competitive gaming, spectating, gambling or wagers, and entertainment. It has grown into a multi-million-dollar business, poised to reach a revenue of a $1.5 billion in 2020.  It accounts for 500 million fans worldwide, out of which 300 are spectators. Its popularity is such that some believe it might make it as an Olympic sport. As per an article by Steve Menary,

“Esports will be a demonstration event at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, then a medal event four years later in China, leading to discussions over its admission at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.”

Great! The future looks bright. But how does one become a competitive gamer? The answer is not as simple as one would like it to be. First, it requires hours and hours of practice – not 3 or 4, but 7 to 8 hours, daily. Players have to find a balance between taking care of their health and training for the game. Young people passionate about reaching the top tend to forget about their health – mental and physical. This is true of any career-centric or skill-centric pursuit. Next, every aspiring gamer needs to have a backup plan until they have at “least some indication that they can make money and support themselves with gaming.” Then there’s the research. It is absolutely essential to understand the methods and tactics of those who came before you – and succeeded. In addition, playing against those better than you can help improve your skill. Lastly, you need to be able to lose gracefully. Even the best players lose 30-50% of their games.

Okay, so now you’ve won a few tournaments, your health is fine, you’ve been reading up on your predecessors, and you’re a pretty humble competitor. It’s an easy in to the highest rung of esports gaming now, right?

Expectedly, the answer is: wrong.

You shall not pass: The barriers

The world of esports is greatly unstructured. It is heavily influenced by popularity and availability of the necessary finances. It is only a handful of games like DOTA, League of Legends, Starcraft, and Fortnite that attract most professional players and spectators. Lack of knowledge amongst gamers, regarding other titles, greatly reduces their chances to get a foot in the door. The games mentioned above account for some of the most coveted titles in esports.

To add to gamers’ woes, pro-gaming requires investment in specialized hardware – it’s going to be very difficult to win on a standard PC. Let’s draw a parallel with another sport dependent on machines – F1 Racing. According to Michael Schumacher,

“I hate to take compromises with a racing car. The more standard a car is, the more compromises you have to take.”

You don’t have to have the best machine out there, but it needs to be above average to help complement your skills. Esports is dependent on two things: the machine and the (wo)man.

Next, the industry has been unable to effectively protect gamers against fraudulent activities like scamming or smurfing. There are also innumerable cases regarding pending payments and identity theft. Says Diarmuid Thoma, Director of Fraud at TransUnion:

“What happens when they (hackers/scammers) gain access to your account? One of the things I have learned about gaming specifically is, it’s not all about the credit card. The account itself is worth money”.

Needless to say, things look bleak for new gamers looking to go pro – there are competition scams, unfulfilled payments, phishing, identity theft, increased cost, and lack of adequate knowledge. These problems are exacerbated by the fact that gaming is still not considered a prospective career by society. So, good luck fighting your family.

It’s not just gamers who are affected. Cost of marketing inhibits up-and-coming game studios from getting any air-time for their games, further inhibiting gamers’ knowledge of available titles. It also impacts their capabilities to create good storylines & gameplay, and to invest in spectatorship services. As you will recall, spectators account for 2/3 of esports fans.

Knight in shining armour: Blockchain

The advent of blockchain technology brought with it an opportunity. Blockchain technology has gained ground because of its decentralised approach, increased transparency, increased security, and the popularity of Bitcoin. A blockchain is, in layman’s terms, a public ledger of information that cannot be fundamentally tampered with. So, how does it play into esports?

Security and transparency: Creating a profile on the blockchain helps protect gamers from identity theft as their information, including the tokens and titles earned, is stored in a multi-branched public ledger. If we look at blockchain as a string of blocks, each block has the same information as the previous one plus new data. Hence, to edit the profile, any person would have to change the data in each and every block. This is difficult because no single person has control over a single blockchain. The threat of identity theft is thus alleviated. Security is further enhanced with a cryptographic set of keys.

The presence of a gamer’s profile on the blockchain would help scouts discover potential esports athletes faster. It also ensures that the information shared is accurate, thus benefiting both scout and gamer.

Smart Contracts: Additionally, smart contract templates can help gamers easily navigate the legalese of the esports world. As of now, there are no standard contracts in the world of gaming.

Monetisation: Increased esports spectator ship is a reality. Amazon’s Twitch has redefined the esports space by allowing streaming and recording of game play. This has enabled gamers to reach our homes and offices – any place that has any device. Additionally, this creates increased income opportunities for gamers as well. For example, Singapore’s Bountie, a blockchain-based esports initiative, features seasonal weekly tournaments for professional gamers, allowing them to earn coins or tokens, thus monetizing the space. There is also scope to bring about in-app purchases during spectating.

Decentralization and speed: Gamers are not new to the technology of blockchain, nor are they unfamiliar with the use of digital tokens that define most of the blockchain transactions. Some might argue that digital currency first became popular with digital games. The problem gamers face here is pending payments. Sometimes, they are not paid at all. At other times, the payment takes three to six months to come through. Blockchain expedites this process to a matter of seconds or, worst case scenario, in minutes. The transactions are verified by the decentralised (peer-to-peer) blockchain system and are irreversible.

Mass awareness: Any given blockchain also provides opportunities to gaming studios to build on top of the main chain. These respective studios can then have their own DApps, keeping the token of the main chain as the primary token. This increases the visibility of their games, which was a problem earlier, and helps reduce transaction costs due to the absence of a middleman on blockchains.

The VR/AR factor: Immersive gaming is fast becoming the preferred means of playing and spectating. AR/VR has already made inroads into the blockchain world with Decentraland. As VR/AR hardware becomes more affordable, more people will have access to it. According to statista.com, “In 2022, the augmented and virtual reality market is expected to reach a market size of 209.2 billion U.S. dollars.”

Gaming fans have always been early adopters and the existence of VR/AR on blockchain will help bring immersive technology to the masses faster and more efficiently. This in turn will give a sense of “stadium-style” viewing where spectators would be able to see who is sitting next to them and tickets could also be sold to monetise on the experience.

Healthcare: With blockchain, players can keep count of the number of hours they have been playing, injuries sustained, and amount spent on healthcare. Additionally, a player’s profile with the above statistics and his/her popularity will help healthcare professionals tailor advice to the individual. It also makes it difficult for players to lie to doctors – something that everyone is guilty of doing. Gamers will also be able to assess their skills at different points in time – pre-meal, post meal, after sleep, during stress or anxiety, during exuberance and so on.

Early Adopters

Unsurprisingly, some have already hopped aboard the esports-blockchain train. Bountie ensures quick payments to players and weekly tournaments; DreamTeam is paving the way for efficient use of smart contract by players, in addition to opening esports up to sponsors and advertisers; and Unikrn offers “team ownership, skill and spectator betting applications, a casino group and multimedia content for esports fans.”

A Quick Recap

Undoubtedly, blockchain technology has much to offer to the expanding realm of esports. It makes it easier for newcomers to enter the competitive arena, sans fraudsters, scams, and pending payments; game studios building their apps or games on top of any main chain benefit in terms of reach; gamers are exposed to more than just the popular titles in tournaments, expanding their scope of winnings and competition; ease of entry and access provides more opportunities for all stakeholders – gamers, studios, advertisers – to monetise; lastly, the decentralized approach ensures quicker, cheaper transactions, greater efficiency, smart contracts, and increased transparency.

Thus, sustainable and engaging esports content and opportunities, coupled with the countless economic and structural benefits of blockchain, ensure that the world of esports becomes a way of life and not just a trend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

References:

  1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewrossow/2018/05/15/its-time-to-wake-up-the-esports-space-with-blockchain/#27198bbb4ff9
  2. https://medium.com/trivial-co/blockchain-and-ar-vr-a-match-made-in-virtual-heaven-26e54782be56
  3. https://www.igvita.com/2014/05/05/minimum-viable-block-chain/
  4. https://medium.com/@athirahsyamimi/the-fast-growing-esports-market-and-blockchain-1d918fc4b7b2
  5. https://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/how-to-prevent-video-game-credit-card-fraud.php
  6. https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Parenting/story?id=5382302&page=1
  7. https://medium.com/@BountieGaming/the-history-and-evolution-of-esports-8ab6c1cf3257
  8. http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/4047/the_history_of_spacewar_the_best_.php?print=1
  9. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/404233/the-start-of-computer-games/
  10. http://www.playthegame.org/news/news-articles/2017/0416_the-rise-of-esports-and-the-challenges-that-lie-ahead/
  11. https://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2012/03/30/the-10-steps-to-becoming-a-pro-gamer/#686cb4ce7839