4 March 2021

Research pick: eSpectator sports - "eSports: a new era of spectator games from a consumer’s viewpoint"

Video games can be spectator sports in just the same as traditional sports, such as football, ice hockey, tennis, athletics etc. The majority of sports spectators view traditional sports remotely, commonly via a television with only relatively limited numbers of people able to attend a sports event. This was always the way, but the current Covid pandemic has precluded attendance at live sports events for and pushed spectating further online. Gaming has only ever had a limited number of live spectators and so the positioning of eSports as online sporting events had a head start.

New research published in the International Journal of Business Information Systems, looks at eSports from the perspective of a new era in spectator games from the perspective of the consumer rather than the gamer. Alan Smith of the Department of Marketing at Robert Morris University, Moon Township, Pennsylvania and Amber Smith-Ditizio of the Department of Kinesiology at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas, USA, discuss accessibility, competitiveness, and socialisation in eSports.

Specifically, the team focuses on accessibility, which includes pricing models and media in which players can spectate and participate. Competitiveness encompasses how players improve their skills, take part in tournaments, and the notion of equality. The socialisation aspect of the research looks at the sense of community that emerges, how gamers can play with friends, and content generated by that community. Most viewers report that they use the internet to spectate on eSports.

The team points out that in order to understand this emerging industry more completely it is necessary to if not discard then untether the research from studies of conventional sports. There is much to learn about how consumers of eSports, who are commonly participants in those activities themselves, sit within this burgeoning realm. Clearer understanding will hopefully lead to progress and improve the way in which future videogames are developed, how professional teams might become better organised as well as pointing to how corporate sponsorship might evolve.

Smith, A.D. and Smith-Ditizio, A.A. (2021) ‘eSports: a new era of spectator games from a consumer’s viewpoint’, Int. J. Business Information Systems, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp.406–431.

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