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Global Esports and game development landscape fast changing

Wednesday 15th May 2024

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Opinion piece                                                                                      


Conor English, President NZ Esports


Global Esports and game development landscape fast changing  


With air temperatures over 45 degrees, Riyadh is a very hot place to visit for a couple of days. Sitting in the middle of the Saudi Arabian Peninsula, the city is surrounded by sand and a sun that is relentless. It’s been that way for centuries. But it isn’t only the sun that is relentless. Esports, gaming and interactive media are now being globally recognised as on a strong relentless pathway of growth.  


Last year, I was in the desert in my capacity as President of NZ Esports, the National Sports Organisation for esports, similar to say NZ Football. I attended the inaugural International Esports Federation (IESF) Asian Championships at which 41 of 143 IESF member countries participated. This was being held in conjunction with the Gamers8 Festival, one of the world's biggest gaming and Esports events, running over two months with 2.5 million people attending and esport prize money of over NZD $70 million for those who are at the top of the competition.


On the global landscape we have a land grab of sorts as various entities seek to become the dominant force in esports and digital competition. Along with IESF and its 143 country members, we have the Global Esports Federation (“GEF”) competing for similar space. The International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) is also considering how they capture esport for the Olympic games. And there are a range of commercial interests including game publishers, operating various competitions and growing the sector and participants.


These high-profile events, political posturing, and prize money demonstrate how fast and big esports is growing globally. The prize money is significant and generates enormous energy and interest globally. There was a real buzz. People are beginning to realise that esports, which is incredibly diverse, inclusive, and social, is on a very strong global growth path. That’s why the Olympic movement is looking at how it incorporates esports into its events and culture.


Hollywood is jumping on board. Last year Warner Brothers released a new Harry Potter title which earned USD$850 million in its first two weeks. But “Hogwarts Legacy” wasn’t a movie, but a video game. Gaming, not just movies, is becoming the new way to build intellectual property, revenue, and spread culture.  


Gaming is forecast to generate over USD$185 billion from consumer expenditure over the next year. Globally, over 3.2 billion people (and growing) engage in video games via laptops, consoles , smartphones as well as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technology. The average age of players is rising, which is seeing more investment in gamification of other parts of our society.


The human body is an ecosystem of various internal systems that allow us to control our minds, bodies and interact with others in our world. External to that are other ecosystems including increasingly the digital ecosystem. What scientists, technologists, business and governments are increasingly realising is that the interface between the human body and the digital ecosystem is gaming and interactive media.


Providing solutions in health, education, retail, and construction for example are now starting to utilise game technology to solve problems, increase participation and enhance learning. Gaming has the ability to create a platform of mass virtual gatherings, which saw the pandemic and associated lockdowns  be a strong catalysts to increasing numbers of people not only entertaining themselves, but also socializing and competing through digital games.


That’s why governments globally have moved to encourage their domestic game development sectors to grow. Here in New Zealand in the 2023 Budget, the Government announced a $160 million package to help ensure our sector remained competitive with the Australian sector in particular.  That investment will be returned in spades. The recurring revenue from the IP created, clean high value jobs and weightless exports being delivered is attractive and substantial. 


A growing game development sector is useful to those nations who want to improve productivity and grow their economy.  As a country we need new ways of earning income so we can afford first world services. The green, weightless, high value jobs that game development and interactive media provides is one such opportunity.


Playing games together has always been important to the happiness and health of humans. Ditigal gaming and esports enhance that experience.  So, it’s not surprising that the people in the middle of the desert in the ancient lands of the middle east where civilisation has existing for thousands of years, are now focussing on digital gaming and esports.  


But New Zealand is not missing out. We are now well positioned to continue to grow the game development export sector. And through NZ Esports, we have growing numbers of Esport athletes competing at international events as E Blacks. Kiwis just need to continue to back themselves in this emerging fast growing global sector of human endeavour. The opportunity is there. Lets make the most of it!


Conor English is President of NZ Esports  +64 274 410 786

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