Professional sport in the last couple of years has been heavily disrupted by the pandemic and that has provided an unexpected boost to e-sports. With regular spectator sports cancelled or limited people have been increasingly turning to e-sports. Research by NewZoo has estimated that some 435.9 million people around the world watched e-sport events in 2020, a 10% increase from 2019. Indeed, single e-sports events can attract millions of online views, with prize money in some cases is in the millions of dollars. There’s no doubt that growth in this sector is going to be substantial in the years to come as sponsorship becomes more attractive to big brands.
NewZoo estimates 577 million viewers and revenues of $1.6bn by 2024, but increasingly e-sports events are expected to be available for streaming to mobile devices. Alongside this, regular gaming consoles are also moving to handheld mobile terminals. Valve for example has recently announced the “Steam Deck” potable console for PC games, with Nintendo’s “Switch” console for its proprietary games, already in the market for some time. This sector as a whole is then becoming mobile and the reliable, high-performance connectivity that 5G provides is becoming a prerequisite.
To create a great e-sports experience then requires high quality mobile steaming. 5G is able to deliver this performance and could supercharge what is already a rapidly growing sector. It’s likely, therefore, that e-sports events and 5G infrastructure will be inextricably linked in the future. So, what is about 5G that enables its use in e-sports?
5G is capable of data rates from 1-10 Gbps making it ideal for HD streaming applications. E-sports events use high resolution images by nature and so require the high bandwidth delivery that 5G can provide.
5G Edge Computing means that video content can be streamed from local servers near to the user’s mobile device delivering superior streaming performance over a centralised approach. E-sports viewers don’t want the experience to degrade as more viewers jump on an event that might be viewed by millions of people all over the world.
5G Network Slicing allows e-sports events to guarantee performance and reliability by reserving uncontended bandwidth and reliability performance for their events. The last thing viewers want is a frozen picture or a dropped connection in the middle of the action.
5G latency is of the order of a few milliseconds, which is essential if e-sports events are to be interactive with users. If there are interactive elements in the e-sports events, a delay in updating the visual content can be very disconcerting for viewers, damaging their overall experience of the event.
There is no doubt that e-sports will continue on a rapid growth trajectory although, it may be slowed as people return to regular professional sport after the pandemic. It is also clear that it will increasingly be consumed on mobile devices and therefore, for the reasons outlined above, the roll out of 5G networks will be pivotal to achieving this and supercharging its global growth.