Major esports events will not be immune from the global economic downturn, the boss of one of the world’s biggest gaming championships has warned.
Speaking in San Francisco at the League Of Legends world finals, John Needham told Sky News he was concerned advertisers might start to pull back from sponsoring such events.
The global president of esports at Riot Games said: “Because our revenues generally mostly come from sponsors, you can have some weakness.”
He added: “We’ve done really well because we reach the scale of millennial and Gen Z audience that very few platforms can reach. But I am a little bit worried about softness with our sponsors.”
League Of Legends is one of the most successful PC games on the planet, and events like the Worlds 2022 championship comprise a large part of Riot Games’ revenue.
This year, Riot Games attracted sponsorship deals from brands such as Tiffany’s, Mastercard, and Mercedes, which were keen to reach younger audiences.
As almost all esports are played on PC at an elite level, the viewership is huge. Worlds 2022 set a new record for League of Legends esports with 5.1 million concurrent viewers.
Could the UK become an esports juggernaut?
But what about the UK market? Having proved itself a worthy host of world-class sports events, could it one day welcome the very best professional gamers too?
In a report back in 2020, the government described esports as having “the potential to develop as an area of real national strength in the UK, building on our world-class video games, entertainment and sports sectors”.
Mr Needham, who used to live in the UK, said: “The UK hasn’t been the strongest market for us because it’s a very console-dominated market.
“Generally your flats, your houses, you don’t have enough room for a dedicated office PC setup.
“A lot of gaming happens in the living room.”
Ofcom figures from last year show 30% of Brits gamed on consoles, compared to only 12% on dedicated gaming desktop computers.
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Riot Games hopes its recently released shooter, Valorant, can change things.
“It’s the fastest growing esport right now,” Mr Needham said. “It is a game that is ripe for the UK.
“It’s a [tactical] shooter. That is the genre of gaming that is the most popular in the UK.”
Should an event like Worlds 2022 come to the UK, cooperation with local government would be key.
“We went to Shanghai a few years ago, and we transformed Shanghai into Worlds,” he recalled.
“We were projecting off skyscrapers and everything else. And the government really leaned in there just to help us promote the event.”