LoL hits hard as LAN events return
The biggest story in esports this year is simply having LAN events back on the agenda. League of Legends led the way with their trademark shows during LCS and LEC bringing the house down, before the Worlds presented the biggest esports showcase this side of the pandemic.
The worlds best LoL orgs travelled to Mexico City, New York, Atalanta and finally San Francisco to be crowned 2022 Worlds champions – with that honour to going to shock winners DRX who came all the way through play-ins.
Worlds saw peak viewership of over 5 million viewers, making it the most-watched LoL event ever, beating last year’s championships by over 1 million viewers.
Featuring teams from 12 countries, Worlds was a truly global event, and typifies the phenomenon that is LoL esports.
Female competition on the rise
Esports is an incredibly inclusive sport, but that inclusivity has struggled to translate into participation at the top level, with only a handful of female competitors breaking through.
Well, the industry is looking to correct this and provide greater opportunity for women. Riot Games launched Rising Stars, a new women’s League of Legends tournament in Europe, which saw 84 competitors take part.
Other tournaments were set up by the British Esports Federation (Valorant) and GIRLGAMER Esports Festival (LOL & CS:GO), showing how the industry is attempting to tackle this issue. A lot more needs to be done, but the future is beginning to look a lot brighter.
Co-streaming is here to stay
Traditionally, gaming and esports events would just be broadcasted by the broadcaster or game developer themselves. The rise of streamers and creators has presented an opportunity for them to co-stream events and increase viewership.
Not only does this enable bring in fans who may not have traditionally watched that particular esport, but it also gives a different broadcast experience – something vital in online media. If you want a more casual, jokey approach, you’d perhaps go for a personality who is less involved in the space, if you want hard-core analysis then you may watch an ex-pro co-streaming.
Co-streaming arrived for Overwatch League this year, following the likes of Valorant and League of Legends to successfully utilise it. It does present an issue for sponsored brands if fans are watching elsewhere, but a work-around would be for the brands to target the creators themselves.
EU Parliament backs esports
In November, The European Parliament passed a resolution recognising the value of the esports and video game industries, recognising the value it offers economically and culturally. The Parliament also recommended a long-term strategy to support and fund the sectors.
Moving forward, EU legislators will now decide how to implement the resolution, which will from the EU’s strategy on esports.
It’s a huge breakthrough for the industry, legitimatising its work and opening up financial benefits through potential funding and support.
VCT dining at the top table
Valorant is the youngest of the big esports titles, but it really made a splash in 2022. A grand total of 40 Champions Tour events took place between February and September, with the format such a success, it has been mirrored by Riot’s fellow title League of Legends in 2023.
Valorant Champions was the most-viewed Valorant event ever, with 1.5 peak viewership and over 520,000 average viewers over the three weeks.
There are significant tweaks for next year, with 30 partnered esports orgs – across three regions: Pacific, EMEA and the Americas. Plus the creation of a semi-pro tier, similar to LoL regional leagues.
Metaverse collaborations thrived
Although the metaverse and esports go far from hand-in-hand, there has been some examples in where the paths have crossed. Most successfully, the Rocket League World Championship was streamed live inside Fortnite, an incredibly smart play from Epic Games.
The rise of metaverse, and the fact that video games can create virtual worlds have seen some impressive collaborations into popular culture, too. K-pop band Blackpink performed in PUBG, BTS had a Minecraft concert, whilst Charli XCX forayed in Roblox.
Expect to see more and more of these collaborations as time goes on, presenting opportunities for brands to enter the space.
Consolidating the space
Consolidation is happening with teams and talent in the esports industry, with talent joining teams or founding their own orgs due to three components.
There’s demand from major influencers wanting their own teams in their favourite titles – for example, KOI founders Ibai and Gerard Pique.
A demand from brands who want access to talents and big creators more than teams and pro athletes, who are not always great content creators.
Lastly, there’s a demand from communities who want their favourite teams to be partnered or owned by their favourite athletes, like Sergio Aguero’s KRÜ Esports or Guild and David Beckham.
Sustainable revenue needs to be prioritised - esports teams still derive more than 80% revenue from sponsorship. This is not likely to change soon and is a real risk for teams survival as a business and growth prospects, plus the risk of brands leaving the space if teams do not deliver on rights sold.
However, teams are doing a better job in 2022 of diversifying. Fnatic launched their own music label, with its first album. The brand has also had regular collaborations on merch drops, put online content behind pay walls, showcased web3 initiatives.