The owner of one of the world’s biggest gaming tournaments has warned that major esports events will not be immune to the global recession.
Speaking at the League of Legends World Championship in San Francisco, John Needham told Sky News he was concerned that advertisers might start withdrawing their sponsorship of such events.
“Because our revenue is usually mainly from sponsors, you may have some vulnerabilities,” said the global president of esports at Riot Games.
He added: “We’re doing really well because we’re reaching a millennial and Gen Z audience size that very few platforms can. But I’m a little concerned about the softness of the sponsors.”
League of Legends is one of the most successful PC games on the planet, and events like the 2022 World Championship make up a large portion of Riot Games’ revenue.
This year, Riot Games has attracted sponsorship deals from brands like Tiffany, Mastercard and Mercedes, keen to appeal to younger audiences.
Since nearly all esports is played on elite-level PCs, viewership is high. Worlds 2022 set a new record for League of Legends esports with 5.1 million simultaneous viewers.
Can the UK become an esports giant?
But what about the UK market? After proving itself as the venue for world-class sporting events, could it also one day welcome the best professional gamers?
In a 2020 report, the government described esports as “building on our world-class video games, entertainment and sport sector, with the potential to develop into a real UK strength”.
Mr Needham, who used to live in the UK, said: “The UK isn’t the strongest market for us because it’s a very console-based market.
“Generally, your apartment, your house doesn’t have enough space for a dedicated office PC.
“A lot of the games are played in the living room.”
Figures from Ofcom last year showed that 30% of Brits play games on consoles, compared to just 12% on dedicated gaming desktops.
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Riot Games is hoping its recently released shooter Valorant will change that.
“It’s the fastest growing sport right now,” Mr Needham said. “It’s a mature game for England.
“it is [tactical] shooter. This is the most popular game genre in the UK. “
Working with local authorities will be key if an event like the 2022 World Finals comes to the UK.
“We went to Shanghai a few years ago, and we turned Shanghai into Worlds,” he recalls.
“We’re projecting skyscrapers and everything. The government is really leaning in there to help us publicize the campaign.”