1/ Esports Industry Predictions for 2019:
— Blake Robbins (@blakeir) January 1, 2019
In his 21-tweet thread, Robbins covers everything from the industry’s current investment landscape to the outlook of numerous esports titles, including Overwatch, League of Legends, Call of Duty and Rainbow Six Siege.
Based on current trends, Robbins believes that mobile esports represents the biggest opportunity, despite publishers struggling with the balance of free-to-play and pay-to-win. In the end, Robbins thinks mobile game publishers need to embrace a fully FTP model for adoption to really take off.
In terms of game landscape, Robbins believes League of Legends, Call of Duty and Rainbow Six Siege will have blockbuster years, while Fortnite and Overwatch will begin to lose their userbases.
Robbins also asserts that streaming will continue to grow and he projects that individual streamers will begin to sign multi-million dollar contracts with both Twitch and YouTube.
While Robbins provides plenty of optimistic projections, he does concede that the industry’s growth may have outpaced the current revenue opportunities and anticipates that 2019 may begin to see some consolidation.
As a result, Robbins sees second and third-tier esports organizations folding into larger groups, while these organizations begin to look more like talent agencies as they wait for league revenue to hit a sustainable level. Ultimately, he believes these organizations will need to refine their strategy and field fewer teams as payroll and salaries continue to increase for players across the board.
The full list of Robbins’ 2019 esports predictions:
- As gaming continues to become a critical part of popular culture, esports in the West has its best year yet (in terms of viewership).
- Revenue growth for esports organizations will lag, despite rising salaries and ops cost. Multiple tier-1 teams will be forced to raise flat and/or down-rounds.
- Fortnite’s dominance will slowly fade, and we will see these ‘new’ gamers transition into other esports.
- Several individual streamers will sign multi-million dollar [guaranteed] deals with YouTube or Twitch.
- We will see several Fortune 500 companies sponsor top esports organizations and players. Slowly sparking the esports sponsorship revenue.
- Overwatch (and Overwatch League) will heavily struggle as they have already exhausted all options to extend the lifecycle of the game. As a result, I think they will pull their last major lever and make Overwatch free-to-play.
- Call of Duty esports will have one of it’s best years yet.
- Rainbow Six Siege will have a breakout year, and cement itself as a top esport title.
- The games that start to embrace and build feeder programs for future professionals (via PlayVS, academy programs, etc.) will have the best long-term success in esports.
- All-in-all I expect it to be a great year for esports in terms of viewership and fan engagement. However, I expect investments in the space to slow down and a ‘correction’ to come as revenue continues to lag.
- Fortnite’s insane success as a free-to-play cross-platform game will forever change the esports industry. Free-to-play and cross-platform is now the bar for every new game released. Major publishers will struggle mightily with this transition.
- Mobile is still one of the biggest opportunities in esports. Supercell (Clash and Brawl Stars) leads the charge here; however, every mobile publisher seems to struggle with the balance of free-to-play and pay-to-win.
- In order for mobile esports to thrive and reach its full potential, we need a true free-to-play title. Mobile game publishers need to embrace the medium, rather than copy what works on PC/console.
- League of Legends will have one of its best years yet, following the success that Western teams had at Worlds this year (Fnatic in the finals, and Cloud9 in the semi-finals).
- Tier-2 and Tier-3 esports organizations will start to dissolve and/or consolidate into tier-1 organizations, as capital starts to dry up.
- Most esports organizations will start to look a lot like talent agencies, while they wait for league revenue to be meaningful.
- There won’t be another ‘Fortnite‘ in 2019. The games that breakthrough in 2019 will create their own genre. It’s only getting more difficult to break through the noise in established genres (FPS, MOBA, etc.) unless you’re a AAA publisher.
- As payroll and salaries continue to increase for players across esports, we will see esports org. focus and refine their esports strategy (Exit and enter games more rapidly). Very few esports organizations can sustain fielding teams across 5 or more games.
- As the race to become THE App Store for games heats up (Steam, Discord, Epic Game Store) — we will see each of these companies aggressively acquire indie game studios to have their own IP on their App Stores.
- Stick and ball esport leagues (NBA 2K, FIFA, Madden) will struggle, but play an important role in continuing to educate the mainstream about esports.
- Just as we saw Counter-Strike make the move to free-to-play, we will hopefully see other established games follow suit.
*edited for readability