Though non-gamers may find it a bit odd, eSports is huge, and growing.
eSports - essentially competitive video gaming - has become huge, not only as a practice in itself, but as a spectator sport. According to research by newzoo, the global eSports audience reached 226 million in 2015, representing 27% year-on-year growth. But more than that, eSports revenue is projected to top $1.07 billion by 2019, with China and South Korea leading the way.
The growth in eSports has been most significantly highlighted by the growth of gaming-dedicated website Twitch which now attracts more than 100 million viewers per month. Those viewers tune in to watch other people playing games - which, again, may seem odd to the uninitiated, but the numbers don't lie.
Twitch has become so big, in fact, that Amazon purchased the network for $970 million in 2014. The gaming platform even has YouTube spooked - around this time last year, YouTube launched "YouTube Gaming", a gamer-dedicated platform featuring more than 25,000 pages focused on specific games and on showcasing fan-made videos and gaming content. And the logic behind why YouTube would go to such efforts is solid - around half of YouTube's top 100 channels are dedicated to gaming, bringing millions of viewers to the site every day.
Make no mistake, gaming is huge, and growing. And as with anything that's growing in popularity on the internet, Facebook has also been paying attention.
Today, Blizzard Entertainment, the makers of the popular Diablo, Warcraft and Starcraft games, have announced that they'll be building social logins and Facebook's live-streaming API into their games. That means gamers will now be able to stream direct to their Facebook timelines and Pages, a move which could make Facebook a much bigger player in the space. And the partnership with Blizzard comes at a particularly opportune time, with the release of the new Warcraft live action movie - the first in what's projected to be a series - coming up later this week.
And while Twitch is the clear leader and has built a dedicated fan community in the gaming space, Facebook comes, as always, with their massive audience reach potential. According to TechCrunch, more than 650 million people already play Facebook-connected games, so there's a clear appetite for gaming on The Social Network, while Facebook itself is used by more than a billion people, every day.
That audience is pretty much impossible for other networks to compete with - if Facebook can show the gaming community that they can get more audience on their network, and that they can integrate their combined social and community efforts all on one platform, that could convince some to switch across.
In terms of associated benefits, having more gamers on platform means increased marketing opportunities for brands looking to reach that audience.
According to Twitch, the platform reaches half of all Millennial males in the US.
That's a similar stat to the one touted by Snapchat, which claims to reach more than 60% of US 13-34 year olds. And that's an audience Facebook would love to have more hold over, particularly considering the ongoing rise of Snapchat - if they can get that through gaming, that'd be a huge win, so it's little surprise to see Facebook giving gamers more focus.
Interestingly, Twitter is also making a pitch to gaming advertisers ahead of this year's E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo event (happening June 14-16). Via their Advertising blog, Twitter claims that gamers are increasingly active on the platform, and are more active buyers than normal users.
And among Twitter's key points for reaching this audience?
- 53% of gamers interact with trailers/videos of game play
The Twitter data once again underlines the growing popularity of gaming content, and of the value in reaching this audience.
If you're looking to reach Millennial males, Facebook's latest move into gaming is one most definitely worth watching - the more they can build that audience on the platform, the more significant a consideration it will be as an outreach option.