The Rise of Esports

“That is such a waste of time,”

“Why don’t you do something productive with your time instead of that game?”

“Growing up, we didn’t have that to keep us occupied, that is just silly.”

The list of sayings about video games from people when I was younger goes on and on. I am relatively young (30 at the time of this article) and even when I was growing up, there was a generally negative connotation associated with video games. Gaming was in its infancy then, and I remember clear as day the first time I played Nintendo, Sega Genesis, PlayStation, and Nintendo 64 and how much fun those games were as kid. Evolving into PS2 and the launch of Xbox when I was in Jr. High, PS3 and Xbox360 by the time I was in high school and early college days and fast forward to today, we just saw the launch of PS5 and Xbox X and PC is a massively popular gaming platform as well.

What has seemingly been a zip in time has brought several generations of consoles, thousands of games, and millions of players around the world to the realm of digital gaming. The concept has gotten to the point that it has grown into a highly competitive (and profitable) market known as esports; an organized, multiplayer video game competition sector that has exploded in popularity and growth over the last few years and as a result, has seen the rise of brands catering to gamers and even has traditional sports nutrition brands making products to stake their claim in this segment.

Revenue & Market Size

The estimated revenue of esports in 2016 was a hefty $492 million dollar market with an expected increase of 32% to 1 billion in the US alone by the end of 2020. This revenue is generated from a variety of sources, much like traditional sports including sponsorships, advertising game publishing fees, media rights and lastly merchandise and tickets to events. Popular on many platforms including YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, Snapchat and TikTok, the opportunity to advertise along with the content these e-athletes are putting out is a very intriguing channel and as a result, research as to how to harness these channels has sparked some new marketing tactics. Among these include partnerships with esports influencers, hosting team esport events and sponsoring products with a Twitch team. The esports influencers channel hits home as it creates an authentic feel for the demographic and many e-athletes can also provide added value by crossing between esports and traditional sports nutrition/dietary supplement spaces.

New Product Opportunities

To fuel the growth of this segment, there has been and emergence of products (and ingredients) that cater to the esports category. While the traditional sports nutrition segment has focused on training endurance, energy, focus, blood flow for pumps and nutrient delivery, enhanced recovery, and muscle growth.

For esports, there is obviously a less rigorous demand on the physical side as it isn’t in a traditional gym or competition field setting, but rather places a demand o focus/attention, reaction time, mental agility, energy/cognition, vision support and joint health. Another thing to note is the deliver system in which these athletes like to utilize. While the traditional sports nutrition market relied heavily on powders, capsules and tablets, the esports market tends to be drawn to unique delivery systems such as gum, stick packs, RTD beverages and shots.

esports Research & Ingredients

Along with the emergence of unique delivery systems, the esports market has also seen the emergence of studies and ingredients that focus on the realm of gaming. Quite a few studies have been conducted as of late and the resulting data has especially shined in aspects of cognitive and vision health benefits. Cognitive health has focused on results specifically studies on gamers with ingredients that work within an adequate response time to optimize gaming, provide non-stimulated energy, and have an immediate effect resulting in increased acuity, focus, reaction time and memory formation.

Vision as you can imagine is also critical as gamers rely so much on seeing what is happening and reacting quickly, so maintaining healthy vision is a huge benefit. The result has been more emphasis on ingredient research that support long term eye health and protect against blue light. The resulting reductions in eye fatigue and strain and increased blue light filtration have already begun to show promise for improvement in gamers and will continue to trend upwards.

With this in mind, studies have begun specifically examining their effects in gamers. I have worked on examining research and presenting the knowledge to consumers in conjunction with one of the pioneers on the subject, Nutrition 21. One such study examined one of the N21 ingredients that I have written about previously from called nooLVL® which has the cool distinction of being the first cognition boosting gaming ingredient with data specifically on gaming performance. The study was published in October of 2019 and utilized a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled parallel group, prospective clinical trial. Participants were healthy, non-smokers between 18–40 years old randomly assigned to one of two groups — one that was administered 1600mg of nooLVL® daily for 7 days and the other a placebo. The study utilized multiple tests including the Trail Making Test A and B (TMT-A,B), Stroop Test, Profile of Mood States (POMS), and ultimately, video game performance1.

Results indicated that in the TMT-A,B tests, the nooLVL® test group performed significantly better after just 15 minutes of supplementation and 60 minutes of gaming. They also completed the tests faster and with less errors. Faster completion speed was found in the Stroop Test as well, with the POMS test unveiling higher scores of self-reported energy in the nooLVL® group. All of these point to significant potential for enhancing cognitive performance significantly. The other cool part is that this has direct application for most gamers as the games that were tested include some of the most popular ones on the market including Call of Duty, Madden and Fortnite1.

Game On!

As you can see, the world of esports is growing rapidly and is showing no signs of slowing down. With almost $1B in revenue already per year, the potential for this market could very well be one of the next great frontiers and if the hype for the recently launched PS5 and Xbox X are any indication, we are just beginning. New consoles, new players joining daily, new research specifically in the space and more companies pouring marketing and product development dollars in than ever before…it is safe to say the Player 1 is ready and the high score is about to get smashed regularly.

1. Tartar J. A Prospective Study Evaluating the Effects of a Nutritional Supplement Intervention on Cognition, Mood States, and Mental Performance in Video Gamers. Nutrients. 2019;11(10). doi:10.3390/nu11102326.

Veteran Formulator & R&D Scientist - Director of Scientific Affairs at Dragon Pharma