Lessons on Esports from Jeremy Lin
Jeremy Lin, a current NBA athlete for the Atlanta Hawks, has been very vocal about his investments into the esports industry. In ‘Esports vs. pro sports: Jeremy Lin is betting on both’, Lin touched on a number of points that have hit home for us at Sports Technology Group. The crossover between traditional sports athletes and esports is not new, as we have seen this with athletes like:
Rick Fox (purchased Echo Fox in 2015),
Trevor May (partnered with Luminosity Gaming),
Shaq and Alex Rodriguez (both invested in NRG ESports) and,
Marshawn Lynch (has his own character in Call of Duty).
Lin touches on three specific points that demonstrate his investment choices and show the connections between the sports and esports industries.
“The barrier to entry for esports is so much lower than pro sports” - Jeremy Lin
While this is a major debate, we believe esports provides more of an equal playing field where anyone, from anywhere, can thrive. For the most part, esports do not discriminate against age, gender, race, religion etc. Anyone with a mobile or desktop device can play esports if they choose. One could argue that anyone with a pair of running shoes and a ball can play basketball, but it is actually much more complex. In order to play basketball, one must get up off their couch, walk/transit/drive to a basketball court, ensure that that court is open to the public, and potentially pay a fee to play on that court. To play a true game they also need to get a group of friends together. Then they can finally play the sport.
On the contrary, to play esports, one can remain where they are sitting in the comfort of their own home, simply download the game on their mobile or desktop device and begin to play. While maybe more variables to become a top-level esports player, there are still more hoops to jump through to become a pro basketball athlete. In the age of short attention spans and digital media, the ease of accessibility is key.
“esports is ...democratizing entertainment” - Jeremy Lin
The millennial generation has grown up in a digital age with the constant bombardment of and access to content, all for free. This generation no longer needs to watch a 4-hour football game to get what they want, they can watch a 60-second highlight reel then pop on Instagram and watch the best tackles of the game from a fan who was sitting two rows away from where the tackles happened. This generation does not want to spend 4 hours to watch 11 minutes of play, and they expect more from the content they do consume. They have grown up in a content-filled world and know what high quality engaging content looks like, and they won’t spend time watching anything less. The average age of traditional sports fans is declining and this isn’t a fluke.
Esports, on the other hand is captivating millennials and Gen Z’s like no other (it’s a real mystery as to where all of those millennial traditional sports fans went…). A quick Google search will give you some astonishing stats on the esports industry’s viewership and rate of growth (spoiler: it’s not slowing down any time soon). Esports is doing all of the right things. Engaging fans in new and innovative ways, giving them what they want for free (see: on Twitch) and staying on top of new technology trends and integrations. Traditional sports organizations, specifically soccer, have found a strong connection with esports fans who play sports based games (FIFA19 by EA) and their live game fanbase. Norway’s Soccer Federation has recognized this traditional and esports fan crossover, and have recently created its own national esports team.
“Professional athletes and professional gamers are more similar than people may think.” - Jeremy Lin
Competing at the top stage of esports is filled with pressure, emotions and prize money. This is a reality that hasn’t really hit North America, the way it has in Asia. In North America, the question ‘are esports really considered sports?’ comes up frequently and the stereotype that an esports athlete is a 14-year-old who eats Cheetos and games for 20 hours straight in their parents’ basement is still alive and well.
North America has not gotten to the point of societal respect when it comes to the term ‘esports athlete’. But that is exactly what they are - athletes. They play their esports professionally, they train the mental aspects of the game, they train the physical aspects, they have a team of coaches that help them with various skills to perform in different situations, healthcare professionals keep them in their best form. They are athletes. Many professional esports athletes relocate all over the world to compete at the top level, just like sports athletes. They compete in tournaments streamed globally for millions of fans, just like traditional sports. The closer you look, the more the similarities arise.
Jeremy Lin hit the nail on the head with his piece and all of us at Sports Technology Group, could not agree with his points more. Esports are making their mark in the future of entertainment, and the traditional sports industry has a lot they can learn from the industry.