Players at the top of their game face off in a battle of wits and reflexes. An arena packed with screaming fans cheers them on, while legions of viewers tune in from home. Millions of dollars are on the line and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
No, this isn’t the latest must-see boxing match. It’s not a World Cup shootout. Believe it or not, this is competitive video gaming, popularly known as esports, and it’s the next billion-dollar spectator sport.
Esports, or electronic sports, are organized gaming tournaments where real people compete for real prizes in front of real audiences. This is no after-school activity; esports has a lot in common with traditional sporting events.
The players are professionals—often the top gamers in the world. The events are held in broadcast studios or sold-out arenas. The games require cunning strategy and split-second reactions honed through years of practice. And players compete for serious money, with prize pools ranging from $50,000 to $5 million. Esports has generated such a fervent global following that it’s already been added as a medal event in the 2022 Asian Games, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) held an esports forum in July of 2018 to discuss its potential as a future Olympic sport.
Getting in the game
Gaming content comes in many forms. In addition to live pro tournaments hosted by gaming publishers and sports commissions, it’s also broadcast live by individual streamers on platforms like Twitch and YouTube. It generates engaging documentaries, miniseries, and streaming videos. Professional journalists publish in-depth esports articles and analyses in digital magazines like Kotaku, Polygon, or Dot Esports.
Some of this content—mostly documentaries, magazines, and limited highlights—has made its way onboard flights already. Emirates, for example, partnered with the world’s largest esports network, ESL, to provide VOD highlights and game recaps. But passengers are demanding more.
In July 2019, Panasonic’s exclusive partner IMG was the first to broadcast a live esports event: the inaugural Fortnite World Cup. A first for aviation, the event was available across hundreds of aircraft.
Just like traditional sports enthusiasts, esports viewers aren’t satisfied with playing catch-up. They don’t want to miss a moment of the action. They want live esports coverage integrated with their existing inflight usage. Luckily, a new media experience from Panasonic Avionics is making that a possibility.
Esports & IFE: A winning team
Newzoo’s 2019 Global Esports Market Report indicates that the global esports economy will reach $1.1 billion in 2019, up 26.7% year on year. The research also forecasts steady audience growth over the next three years, with 250 million esports enthusiasts tuning in by 2021.
Esports offers multiple new venues for advertisements and cross-promotions. It can also fill the need for “second-screen entertainment”—that is, watching content on one screen while playing a game on another. This kind of multitasking is popular with gamers, as it helps them pass the time between matches and reduces downtime during loading screens. Airlines can capitalize on this preference by incentivizing passengers to purchase both TV and Wi-Fi services via complementary bundles.
“Just like traditional sports enthusiasts, esports viewers aren’t satisfied with playing catch-up. They don’t want to miss a moment of the action. They want live esports coverage integrated with their existing inflight usage.”
League of Legends takes flight
Recently, Panasonic Avionics and League of Legends Championship Series (LCS), the preeminent esports league in North America, announced their exclusive collaboration to bring content from LCS and NA Academy, a development league with partnered LCS organizations to the inflight world. This is the latest addition to Panasonic’s new Gaming portfolio within its Theatre solution.
In 2018, the spring season of League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) had hundreds of thousands of viewers and millions of hours of content watched. The LCS is currently the 3rd most-watched professional league in North America behind only the NFL and NBA. Riot and Panasonic will be offering LCS and LCS Academy content available spring 2020.
By combining multiple forms of gaming content—live esports coverage, inflight games played on the seatback, and complimentary video on demand content—airlines have a very compelling chance to provide their passengers with a truly unique and exciting interactive inflight experience.