The esports business faced many battles in 2023, as numerous organizations suffered layoffs or sold their expensive league slots. Gen G’s CEO, among other major teams, openly talked about how they’ve never even made a profit. The so-called “Esports Winter” doesn’t necessarily mean the death of the industry is imminent, however.
In fact, some executives in the space believe that the industry experienced a much-needed correction in 2023, which could help it to establish a more solid foundation to build upon for the future.
“Esports in 2023 has been about recalibration,” Craig Levine, Co-CEO, ESL FACEIT Group, explained to Esports Insider. “Over the past seven years, the esports industry has experienced an incredible influx of hype and interest and as the video game industry resets after the COVID-induced highs, publishers have identified esports as the linchpin – unraveling the ‘how,’ ‘what,’ and ‘why’ that defines the retention and monetization of their user base.”
A number of esports brands sought to change their fortunes by pivoting to content creation around a variety of non-esports entertainment and pushing the lifestyle branding approach. The problem with this tactic though is that it didn’t truly address the underlying business issues that many organizations faced.
“This year was defined by many esports organizations returning to the fundamentals of running a business. Of course, competitive success should be the main goal but you also need to establish yourself as a business as well,” noted Nicolas Maurer, CEO of Team Vitality.
With investor hype having died down and more teams planning with business sustainability in mind, the esports industry has a solid chance of rebounding in 2024 and beyond. And the good news for industry participants is that overall interest in esports in the general population hasn’t really diminished.
Interpret’s New Media Measure® shows that the percentage of people watching either professional or amateur esports tournaments in the last three months has held steady between 6% and 7% since the middle of 2022. There was a bump up to 10% in early 2023, likely reflecting the surge of viewership from the League of Legends Worlds Championship in the fourth quarter (as data from respondents is fielded a little before the survey is finalized), but then numbers equalized back to the 7% range. Ideally, viewer interest would continue rising beyond 10%, but esports viewership is holding steady at least, which is something the industry can work with.