In single player focused communities like Push Square, esports get overlooked. But make no mistake, this sector of the market is enormous: BBC regularly hosts Rocket League and League of Legends tournaments live on its website now, while UKIE pegs the sector’s overall global revenue at $1.1 billion as of 2020 – and that number’s only going up. Many world-famous sports franchises – like Paris Saint Germain, for example – now have professional esports squads.
PlayStation has recognised this for some time, and while its endeavours have remained a footnote on sites like this, it’s perhaps worth looking at what it’s been doing behind-the-scenes. Gran Turismo Sport, for example, has quietly become a full-scale esport since release; its competitive livestreams rival real-life motorsport broadcasts. It’s also sponsored various major events, like the Call of Duty League and the Capcom Cup over the years.
Evo is the most prestigious fighting game tournament in the world, but its origins as an amateur community event have made it a bit of a shambles of late. Last year’s competition was cancelled due to allegations of sexual misconduct, and there were question marks over whether the event would ever return – especially with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic causing complications for conventions of this nature.
It’s perhaps worth noting that, with the competition already in a precarious position, Sony is unlikely to have broken the bank acquiring the event; we’re clearly not talking about a $7.5 billion investment here. But this furthers its ambition to become the home of competitive gaming as well as single player gaming: the platform holder noted in a blog post that in 2020, players spent an eye-watering 1.1 billion hours playing fighting games on its consoles.
But those of you who have been paying attention will know that PlayStation has been coveting this market for quite some time. PlayStation’s Competition Centre – an oft-overlooked part of the platform holder’s website – is jam-packed with events that you can enter, spanning games like Mortal Kombat 11 and FIFA 21 through to NBA 2K21 and SoulCalibur VI. Many of these have small prizes attached, with events unfolding on an almost daily basis.
In fact, if you’ve ever looked at the official PlayStation YouTube channel, you’ll find if you filter out the trailers there are absolutely tons of competitive livestreams. Many of these attract thousands of viewers; it’s not hard to imagine how Evo, as one of the biggest esports events on the calendar, will significantly elevate its efforts in this area. Larger audiences mean greater engagement, and with Sony tethering its brand to the action, that means more players on its platforms.
Sony clearly sees Evo as an opportunity to not only cement its status as the fighting game platform, but also to strengthen its position as a console for competitive gamers. Esports may not be to your personal tastes, but the Japanese giant is smart to broaden the appeal of its box; it’s already the best place to play single player story games, but the manufacturer wants to ensure its appliance is the defacto device for tournaments, too. All of that means more players, more subscribers, and, ultimately, more money.
What do you make of Sony’s decision to acquire Evo? What do you think this means for PlayStation moving forwards? Reach the knockout stages in the comments section below.