According to research the size of the market for esports – professional gamers playing against one another in front of live crowds – is expected to reach $463 million in 2016, and grow as big as $1.1 billion by 2019.
Small wonder then, that tech entrepreneurs and gaming companies from all over the world are scrambling to make sure they grab a slice of this exponentially growing pie.
Allied eSports, a joint venture of some the largest eSports, sports and entertainment companies in China, including Wangyu Wangka, the largest internet café chain in China, are the latest to throw their hats into the European ring, announcing today that it has launched a new Europe-wide venture, ELC Gaming, at an unveiling event at Gamescom in Cologne.
ELC gaming will be responsible for the ESPORTS LEGENDS CUP which will take place next year, with gamers competing for real prize money and “the chance for their names to be engraved on the Legends Cup for eternal glory.”
But the biggest attraction will doubtless be the opportunity to compete on board “Big Betty”, a mobile esports arena in the form of 21.5 metre (70.5 feet) long and 12.5 meter (41 feet) wide “roadshow truck” which weighs 31 tonnes and comes equipped with amongst other features, a roof-top VIP Player Lounge, Competition stage with room for 24 gaming stations, 20 large LED and TV displays, a state-of-the-art production suite and control room, and outdoor “game day” studio.
ELC Gaming say that Big Betty will be on tour from this autumn allowing gamers to sample the competitive atmosphere for the first time and win prize money and ELC partner products.
The tour begins in Holstenhallen in Neumunster, Germany, from September 30th to October 2nd and is set to include events with Blizzard Entertainment title Hearthstone, Riot Games title League of Legends (which brought in more than $1bn in revenues in 2015) and more. The rest of the tour dates are set to be announced after the conclusion of Gamescom.
“Our goal with ELC Gaming is to bring the excitement of professional esports competition to the everyday gamer’s backyard,” says Jud Hannigan, Senior Vice President of Allied eSports. “Big Betty provides us with both the mobility and production assets to deliver a truly unique and elite eSports experience all across Europe.” If Mohammed won’t come to the mountain…
As if to underline the seriousness and ambition of the eSports phenomenon, the ESPORTS LEGENDS Cup has been designed and built by the same people who make the Champions League Cup and is described as “handmade from the finest material under an intense production process” that takes more than 150 hours. The trophy will be displayed in pride of place on board Big Betty, for crowds to admire, and no doubt covet.
Besides the truck, the Allied eSports Property Network also includes an arena in the US, and the Wangyu eSports Arena, which opened in Beijing in November 2015. The firm hopes to acquire 10 properties around the world over the next 3-5 years.
“In addition to our own tournaments, we are looking forward to working together with game publishers, partners and municipalities to bring the impact and excitement of Big Betty to their events as well”, says Hannigan.
During Gamescom, which takes place from 17th to 21st August in Cologne, Big Betty will be put to work running and streaming matches at set times each day with both professional gamers and members of the Gamescom crowd. German YouTube star Simon Unge will also be present, alongside other reputed social media “influencers”.
“The ELC Europe tour this fall is a first taste for gamers around Europe. There will be much more to come in the future from Big Betty and ELC Gaming”, commented Ian Langstaff, CEO of ELC Gaming.
Big trucks that can transform themselves into mobile theatres are about as exciting a concept as a teenager is surely ever to encounter. Usually restricted to the realms of fantasy, cartoons, toys, or the silver screen, it’s hard to see how a real life Optimus Prime can fail to be anything other than a “runaway” success.
What the Big Betty press release does not mention is the sizeable gambling market that tends to accompany eSports events wherever they take place (where gambling is permitted), and probably outstrips even the prize money on offer. Given the fact the truck has been given the name it has, however, perhaps we can infer that this alternative route to monetisation has not been entirely overlooked.
eSports has yet to truly gain significant traction in the UK, but that may be about to change with the opening of ESL UK’s studio in Leicester in April, which allegedly cost between £700-£800k to build and can house up to 100 people, plus 30 camera feeds, all running in 4k.