As the sports world begins to recover from the global pandemic, millions of fans are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to return to their fantasy lineups. But it’s not just fans anxiously waiting — fantasy sports is a nearly $8B dollar industry in the U.S. alone.
Meanwhile, the esports industry continues to grow, helped in part by some extra attention from the sports world during the shutdown of leagues like the NBA. But pandemic or not, esports has been destined for 10 figures for quite some time. Over the last decade, we’ve seen gaming go from a hobby to a legitimate and potentially lucrative career in a $1.1B global industry.
Just as in traditional sports, the best players inspire hoards of fans who crave greatness and are willing to devote their time and money to the thing they love. In 2019, the League of Legends World Championships drew more viewers than the Super Bowl.
Fantasy esports is, without a doubt, a multi-billion dollar industry in the making.
The Future is Already Here
It’s inaccurate to call esports “the future,” because they’ve long since arrived. According to Newzoo, a leading research company in the industry, the audience is expected to reach nearly 600 million by 2021. This growth is spurred by a global audience that, whether hailing from Asia, the Americas, Europe, or anywhere else, feel that esports is their “native” game – something no traditional sport can claim. And like traditional sports, esports is now seeing industries grow up around it, serving the burgeoning community of players and fans. Traditional fantasy sports operators have taken notice and have dipped their toes into the water, validating our belief that fantasy esports is on the cusp of exploding.
We’ve certainly seen it on our platform. The metrics for the first half of 2020, in which we launched our League of Legends fantasy game, have been explosive. We’ve seen massive, 200%+ growth across a swath of metrics, including signups, engagement, and time spent on the site, which stands at a stunning 1 hour+ per session, far outpaces time spent on other online platforms.
While the explosive growth may be a surprise to some, it wasn’t to us. I began my career in esports more than a decade ago, and have started two companies in the space. The passion I’ve seen, the thirst for data, and the incredible levels of participation, not just passive viewing, led me to launch Esports One.
The Secret Sauce
If you’re familiar with fantasy sports, you know that some platforms provide better experiences than others. Our engineering team made up of grads from MIT and Ph.D. candidates at CalTech developed the computer vision and machine learning technology that runs our platform and gives us a unique competitive advantage. We’ve got data from literally hundreds of millions of League of Legends matches and nearly 100 million players. We pour all this information into our platform, creating rich data sets that make our fantasy game deeply immersive for the hardcore fan — whether they’re a novice or an expert when it comes to fantasy games.
In late 2019, we launched OneBot, the first “Fantasy Discord Bot” that leverages our massive data warehouse and proprietary insights to deliver an unparalleled fantasy experience to gamers around the world. OneBot has grown to be one of the largest esports discord bots and is installed in over 5,000 servers with a reach in the 100’s of thousands of users across Discord, the largest community platform for gamers with more than 250 million users worldwide. But the big value of OneBot is that it provides a unique touch point with our users that doesn’t require a mobile app or email marketing to activate or re-engage our users. And when you think about Esports One as a whole, we strive to engage users at every step of their esports experience. With OneBot we’ve created a connection point with the community that engages fans and builds our user base in ways we couldn’t possibly do just through our team members.
One of the great ironies I’ve found is that while the tech may get people to come, it’s the deep understanding of esports that gets people to stay. While other fantasy sports platforms have tacked on an esports offering as a platform afterthought, Esports One was built for fantasy esports from the ground up. We live, eat, breathe, and most importantly, talk esports every day. Our community consistently remarks on our accessibility and responsiveness to their questions and ideas. By putting the user first we’re building a loyal following that helps drive word-of-mouth.
Building a Winner
Since we launched our beta in January, we’ve seen tremendous growth at over 40% MoM. Even in the midst of a pandemic and an ever-shifting zeitgeist, user retention and stickiness have continued to exceed our lofty expectations.
The room for growth is inspiring. We’re excited about adding more games to our fantasy portfolio later this year (sorry, no spoilers as to which titles). We’re also working on new elements to our platform that will continue to build toward a truly innovative competitive viewing experience.
I’ve never been more excited about the future of the esports industry than I am today. From the quality of play and the production of tournaments to the flood of participants and traditional brands such as MasterCard, Nike, and Coca-Cola who are now getting involved, now is the time to bet big on fantasy esports.