The eSports industry has been surging forward, and these past few years have been marked by exponential growth. Though no official figures have yet been released, all indications point to eSports earning over $600 million in 2017 as projected by ESPN. The future looks even brighter: an estimated $1.5 billion in revenue in 2020.
The march to $1.5 billion begins this year, and look for both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to play huge roles in the coming 12 months.
Virtual Reality and eSports
Last year, VR and eSports formally coalesced when the first national VR eSports tournament was co-organized by the ESL Gaming Network, Insomniac Games, Microsoft, Intel, and Asus. Gamers in 80 Microsoft stores in Northern America strapped on an Oculus Rift and competed against one another in the VR game The Unspoken. The tournament was well received, ultimately leading to the establishment of the VR Challenger League, a global competitive gaming series that will feature a number of VR eSports, notably the aforementioned The Unspoken and Echo Arena. The series will culminate in a final championship event to be held at the annual Intel Extreme Masters gaming event this year.
The prize pool of the VR Challenger League is a cool $200,000, although it certainly pales in comparison to the more than $24 million prize pool of last year’s Dota 2 International. But if the VR Challenger League finals becomes a major draw, as is expected by its organizers (Intel, Oculus, and ESL), expect that prize pool to be bigger next time around and the industry to earn even more.
The fact that VR has made its way to eSports is no longer surprising as it has for the past several years been making a huge impact in the larger gaming industry as a whole. This technology, in fact, is now being used even in online casino games, specifically poker. Casino VR Poker, an online multiplayer casino game hosting live Texas Hold ’em, was released back in 2016. Just last August, it even offered a High Rollers poker tournament that paid out real prizes. This is precisely the reason why Partypoker considers a VR headset as a perfect gift not only for poker players but for gamers in general. VR is not only changing the nature of competitive games, it is also making them much more accessible. Part of the allure of using VR is the escapism it affords gamers, who are in for a fully immersive experience.
Augmented Reality and eSports
Augmented reality got a massive boost these past few years with the overwhelming success of both Pokémon Go and Ingress, and it might only be a matter of time before this technology finds its way to competitive gaming. That time might even be this year. In fact, entertainment content developer Grab Games has unveiled an AR tabletop platform that may revolutionize the way eSports fans watch matches, either on live TV or via Twitch and similar platforms.
Though still a prototype, this platform aims to let fans watch games of League of Legends on a table through AR. Instead of just watching the actual game, users of the Grab-developed platform can essentially customize what they’re seeing. Confused? Allow Grab Games founder Anthony Borquez to explain: “Instead of just following what the commentator is saying or what the broadcast is showing you, imagine being able to follow just the jungler for an entire match. You could see exactly when they’re down midlane, when they are going back to top, [and] what strategy they’re using.”
In addition, AR has serious potential according to Techspective, and many believe that this technology could even overtake VR in the future. Already, AR is proving to be a hit on smartphones, and this success is undeniable proof of AR’s immense potential. With more and more people playing games on their mobile devices, the gaming industry is, of course, keeping pace, and it would not be much of a surprise if game developers are able to finally come up a perfect-for-eSports AR game within the year.