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Welcome to a New Era in Pro Gaming
By Amit Mangwani, Director Retail Marketing - Asia Pacific and Japan at Intel Corporation
Growing up, I spent many hours playing games – both outside and inside the house. I got the best of both worlds. When I stepped out to play it was all about the excitement of meeting my friends, having fun exploring our neighborhood, and learning and trying out new skills. But inside the house, I played video console-based kart racing games like Mario Kart and run-and-gun games like Contra that allowed me to unleash a different kind of competitive side.
The gaming genre has evolved a lot since then. It’s no longer just limited to shooting and racing games. It includes a plethora of new engaging gaming options ranging from action and adventure to role playing, strategy, simulation, sports related games and now popular battle royale genre. While earlier, the target audience primarily comprised of children and teens, today it encompasses nearly anyone who has access to a device that can load a game. And it has also given birth to a niche and crucial subset of players – professional gamers.
Yes, these are players who game professionally on their PC or watch gaming videos on YouTube. They dedicate several hours every day to develop their skills, explore strategies and meet new targets with the primary intention of competing in leagues (like the League of Legends) and tournaments (like Intel Extreme Masters) and making money. The industry, which till recently functioned almost in a silo has now evolved into a highly popular universe called e-sports, a form of competitive gaming where players go up against each other in organized competitions. It’s no surprise then that it has gained recognition as a demonstration sport during the 2018 Asian Games and may find itself as a medal event in the upcoming 2022 Asian Games.
I believe this could be because Asia, more specifically Korea and Southeast Asia, has made a mark on the world map as the largest gaming market (in terms of revenue) with $51.2 billion, which is nearly twice that of North America’s.With gaming, especially PC gaming, gaining recognition as an e-sport, this segment is set to see steady growth.
Gaming, it’s Where the Money Lies
While until recently players were primarily motivated more by the need to be at the top of a game’s leaderboard, they are now also driven by the chance that they get to earn a place at a continental level and gain celebrity-like status, with their own fans and followers. And this is also where the money lies. With e-sports having wide reach among a highly interested target audience, the industry has the opportunity to earn $1.5 billion in revenue by 2020.
And why not, with total prize money of nearly $25 million, which is quite more than any other traditional sport, it makes for a highly competitive and financially rewarding sport. To put this in perspective, currently the prize pool for the National Basketball Association is $13 million, while that for Golf Masters is at $11 million and for Confederations Cup is $20 million.
Rise of Gaming cafes
Many Asian counties like South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia are providing enablers like internet gaming cafes with powerful PCs that give players the chance to game anytime they want, on devices that are powerful and smart.
Growth of Gaming PCs
While gaming cafes are quite popular among young players who are just testing the waters and exploring the world of e-sports, it’s not a very feasible option for pro gamers that need powerful systems with all the capabilities needed to handle the demands of the games they play during leagues and tournaments.
Hence Gaming PC Market is witnessing double digit growth in demand for these powerful Gaming PCs with cutting-edge features like powerful CPUs like Intel Core i7 and Core i9 and GPUs, high frame rates and overclocking capabilities. Many pro gamers prefer to build their own gaming rigs, the retail segment is also experiencing a greater interest in demand for high-end PC parts. All top PC OEMs have gaming PC brands like Alienware, Legion, Republic of Gamers, Omen, Predators, and Nitros. Never before has the gaming market seen so many and so powerful yet sleek mean machines.
Gamification of Retail: Engaging the Gamers Meaningfully
I think this is a great time for retail to engage with this relatively new type of PC buyers, with experiences that are likely to bring them to the store again. This means retail has a great opportunity at hand to draw these customers back to the store, time and time again, with not just the promise of the PC components or new shining gaming laptops they need, but also instore experiences that intrigue them. So, what can the retail industry do to draw a discerning audience that looks at factors like powerful CPUs, very high resolution displays, fast and robust accessories like keyboard, mouse and head phones, high end graphic cards and most importantly a great shopping experience? Create an instore gamified experience that appeals to this audience, which today, is largely comprised of millennials.
• Retailers are organizing leagues and promoting eSports athletes with a focus of making them competitive in international circuits.
• Create exclusive Gaming Zones with all Gaming PCs in one area, Gaming title running on them to experience the game on PC, Keep gaming accessories close by to sell more.
• Hire young sales people who are passionate about gaming themselves and have good knowledge and interest in category.
• Create interesting offers to attract – Gaming accessories bundle, free gaming titles and fast service support or extended warranties.
• Use technology like AR and VR to engage the new age shopper by giving them immersive gaming experience on these high end PCs – Both Laptop and Desktop.
• Create Gaming weekends with influencers, casters or streamers and organize in-store joe vs. pro gaming competitions.
• eSports is truly global and this enables an opportunity to have local and international eSports streams telecast live inside the store – nothing like meeting eSports fans and seeing your best teams compete over beer and pizzas….a whole new experience inside retail stores.
Gamifying the retail space strategically can show this growing segment of PC buyers that they matter. It can go a long way in instilling confidence in a segment and generation that has an inherent aversion to advertising and marketing that brands and retailers are willing to engage with them in a meaningful and rewarding way.
In all, from the projected revenue that it is set to make to the number of people watching gamers play live, it is evident the e-sports industry has generated a lot of interest over the recent years. I believe that this interest that it has piqued will only continue to grow. And this is possible, as research shows that watching others play e-sports can motivate casual gamers to take their gameplay to the next level by going pro. With an average audience size of about 425 million likely to tune in at some point in 2019, we are looking at a potentially large player base capable of making its way into the e-sports arena. What will be the outcome? Unprecedented growth, unlike any we have seen before.