PC gamers are nothing if not passionate. They’re often labeled as “enthusiasts” and even “hardcore,” but whatever label seems most fitting, PC gamers comprise a group of more than 1.2 billion individuals around the globe. This number is only growing, and its upward swing is directly connected to the surging esports industry. Market research firm Newzoo estimates the esports economy to reach nearly $700 million this year, representing a year-on-year growth of 43 percent. By 2020, Newzoo expects that to more than double, reaching $1.5 billion.
What once seemed like a stagnant market for PC gaming is now on the rise, thanks in large part to esports. PC hardware manufacturers are reaping the benefits, and have the potential to profit more.
The growing relationship between PCs and esports
PC gamers have traditionally eschewed the one-size-fits-all console approach, and the rise of esports and competitive video game tournaments has made the need for hardware customization even greater. This is apparent in the increasing popularity and acceptance of competitive gaming and has attracted even more hardcore PC users, with many wanting to build their own systems.
In response, PC manufacturers are driven to continue to offer the latest high-performance processors and graphics cards for customization for those players who want to be at the top of their game (or just want the latest-and-greatest gear). As the number of players in esports continues to rise, hardware manufacturers must continue to expand their offerings, especially through new avenues such as VR. It’s a great thing for both hardware manufacturers and the gamers themselves to push each other to even greater heights.
But this is only one side of the coin for how these two groups are becoming more tightly knit.
Development with the gamer in mind
Like the PCs developed and marketed for travelers with privacy screens and durable construction, esports requires a specific approach to ensure gamers have a glitch-free experience during critical sports competitions. In esports, computing power is king — a slow processor can be the difference between winning and losing. Manufacturers who already have experience creating powerful PCs for the enterprise have an advantage, but that does not mean vendors can rest easy.
As we inch closer to quantum computing, the rise of esports will be a critical blueprint for how to design, produce, market, and continue to innovate the next generation of powerful PCs. This also means making components more flexible for memory upgrades, for example, without having to replace the entire machine. For many teams designing with the enterprise or consumer in mind, a new approach must be taken to meet the new demands of esports competitors, and to drive forward the next era of computing that will be required for the future.
Investing in success
The rapid growth of esports is also attracting corporate investment through sponsorships and partnerships covering athletes, leagues, and major events. Such investment is helping to champion and spur further growth in the market. Among those leading the charge are PC hardware manufacturers who have the opportunity to showcase innovations to the gaming community in a live setting.
According to Newzoo, this sponsorship spending will soar to $655 million by 2020. For esports players, this brings new opportunities, driving ability to further refine their craft—with some players even becoming full-time professionals.
For marketers, this is an opportunity to reach new, highly-engaged audiences. And for PC manufacturers, there is an enormous opportunity to become even more deeply entrenched in the industry, better understanding the customer to deliver the best products possible. Without invaluable feedback from the players themselves, manufactures are losing critical intelligence to push the boundaries of their products.
Following the current blueprint for success
Taking the NFL as an example, it’s easy to see the vision for opportunity in the coming years. According to IEG research, sponsorship spending on the NFL and its 32 teams rose 4.3 percent to $1.25 billion in the 2016-2017 season — a staggering figure illustrating the possibilities for growth in esports.
But there are challenges ahead. For example, non-endemic brands also are getting involved in sponsorship, but to be successful, they must understand the environment and the audience. Gamers, of whom millennials make up a significant share, look for authenticity. In order to become part of esports and build trust with players and fans, these elements are essential.
With the PC industry and esports teaming up, the new opportunities are opening up for players, brands, and sports fans are endless — but it’s up to both parties to make the relationship a successful one.
Christoph Schell is president of the Americas Region for HP Inc. He is responsible for the go-to-market strategy and overall financial performance of the Americas region, across all printing, personal systems, and 3D products and services.