What the 2017 Kleiner Perkins Internet Trends report can teach us about millennials and esports

Here’s a fact: in the last two years, more digital information (around 24 zetabytes, if you’re curious) has been produced than during the rest of human history combined. That bit of trivia comes to us from the 2017 edition of Kleiner Perkins annual Internet Trends report, which was released last month and offers a broad overview of the state of the internet today. The new report is an invaluable resource, shedding light on everything from mobile ad conversion rates to the adoption of wearable tech.

In this post, we’re going to highlight some of its insights that touch on our own area expertise, video games, especially esports. The report makes a strong case that videogames, and esports in particular, are a strong point of expansion for companies and organizations interested in connecting with millennial audiences.

It’s worth reading the entire report in full, but we’d like to point out a few especially interesting insights about games and interactive media:

  • While the pace of smartphone adoption and internet access have slowed in recent years, gaming’s growth shows no signs of stopping. There are now an estimated 2.6 billion players worldwide, compared to 100 million 1995.

  • Multiplayer continues to dominate. Though single player games (or local-only multiplayer games) once owned the largest share of the market, the trend since the late 1990s has been toward collaborative, with massive player bases.

  • Asia and the Pacific remain the most valuable region for gaming, with nearly $47 billion in revenue in 2016 (nearly double that of North America and triple that of Europe).

  • Gaming tools and technologies are being adopted outside the realm of entertainment to optimize learning, training and engagement. Virtual reality allows Stanford University’s football team to run plays repeatedly, while physically interactive media has been shown to boost intensity and focus for athletes during conditioning.

  • Many of the skill needed to succeed in game environments – planning workflows, self-optimization, repetition, collaboration, and data analysis, etc. – have obvious parallels for training workers to succeed in an increasingly dynamic digital economy.

  • Games are foundational for internet services. Kleiner Perkins draws a direct line, for example, between the introduction of high scores in video games to ranking systems present on many share economy platforms.

And now, some esports:

  • Though it’s tempting to see the current explosion of interest and investment in competitive gaming as something entirely “new,” the field actually has a long history that stretches back through home computers and arcades to the 1970s.

  • Last year, the yearly finals of the world’s most popular esport, League of Legends (‘Worlds’), drew over 40 million unique online viewers. In total, worldwide viewership is estimated at around 160 million and experiencing significant year to year growth.

  • According to a report by L.E.K Consulting, 40 percent of millennials prefer their favorite esport to their favorite physical sport versus to 26 percent of non-millennials. By comparison, 42 percent of millennials prefer their favorite physical sport to their favorite esport. In other words, millennial’s media consumption isn't going to be split between esports and physical sports – it already is, and almost equally so.

  • 80 percent of esports viewers are under 35, and while women constitute only a third of viewers, that number is trending upward and represent a future audience.

  • New partnerships between esports teams and tournaments and highly recognized brands are helping in bringing esports into the mainstream. Major case studies include the Philadelphia 76ers acquiring esports brands Dignitas and Apex, and Riot Games, publisher of League of Legends, signing a $300 MM deal with BAMTech to broadcast the League Championship Series.

All of which is to say that for companies interested in targeting young, mobile, media-savvy consumers, gaming and especially competitive gaming has already become a crucial point for expansion, and is only expected to grow in importance and sophistication.

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