The electronic sports ecosystem has changed greatly over the years. The professionalization of its actors (e.g. teams, leagues), the technology development (e.g. broadcasting platforms), the investment of big companies, as well as the experience of the studios, are only examples among many others of what allowed the environment to evolve.
Note: This article is a translation. For the original article, click on Français in the menu.
As with the various traditional sports, there are nuances and differences between the electronic sports disciplines. Nevertheless, in this article we will see a generic overview of the overall ecosystem, which will give you a good idea of how the environment works as a whole.
Without reinventing the wheel, we will base our analysis on Nicolas Besombes’ (2019) excellent diagram, which we will complement.
A better resolution of the image is available here : IMAGE
Here are the main categories identified by Besombes: video games, developers & publishers, players, franchises & teams, tournaments & leagues, operators, media, brands & investors.
We will add two categories:
- Federation & Regulators
- Education & Health
For the images, we will arbitrarily take examples from the ecosystem of the video game Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege (link), developed by Ubisoft in my hometown, Montreal.
Since electronic sports are video game competitions (Savard, 2021), we too are placing the video game as a central element in ecosystems. There are hundreds of thousands of different games, and they can be separated in a multitude of ways. For example, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege (R6) is a first-person shooter with a realistic military simulation style.
Developers & Publishers
Generally, developers create the video game and publishers market it. However, as is the case with Ubisoft, it is possible for a studio to play both roles at the same time. What is important to remember here is that the intellectual property of the game belongs to one or the other. Unlike traditional sports, no one can make big video game competitions without their approval.
Players, whether they are amateurs or professionals, are those who compete in the various circuits. Depending on their level and the resources available to them, some will have lawyers, agents, private coaches, etc. The image here represents the players of the R6 team of the Mirage organization.
Franchises & Teams
Teams can have many names (e.g. organization, clan, structure, team, etc.) depending on the different business models and preferences of their owners. However, some leagues may impose a franchise system. This is not the case in our example with Ubisoft, which allows all teams, like Mirage, to have a chance to eventually qualify. Some teams live together in a house provided by their organization.
It is not uncommon for developers and publishers to outsource their main leagues to contractors, or simply let other people run events, for a license fee or not. For example, there is the FACEIT Pro League (Liquipedia) which exists on the sideline of the official circuit.
Broadcasters & Media
Like traditional sports, there are many media that will cover the news of the ecosystem and broadcast, live or delayed, the different games. In electronic sports, the most popular platform for live streaming is Twitch.tv.
Brands & Investors
Nike, Kraft, Microsoft, Ferrari… The list of companies that invest, in one way or another, in the field is very large. In addition, sponsors are still the main source of revenue for the medium (Newzoo, 2021).
In the electronic sports ecosystem, regular fans are generally, according to our observations, active players of the game in question. They are the ones who watch the games, buy the merchandise, are active on the different platforms, etc. We consider it important to note that the “Betting & Fantasy” sub-section is becoming more and more important in the ecosystem and that we could discuss potentially setting it apart.
Addition: Federations & Regulators
Although they don’t have the same powers as the sports governing bodies, there are more and more organizations that aim to regulate the ecosystem. Sometimes it comes from a government initiative (e.g. British Esports Association, 2016). In Quebec, the Fédération québécoise de sports électroniques (FQSE, 2016) promotes a sportsmanship charter, a code of ethics and a safety code. Among other things, it also offers accreditations for organizations and leagues, as well as certifications for referees and coaches. The Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC, 2016) would be another example of an organization in this category. Its mission is “to be the recognized guardian of the integrity of electronic sports and to assume responsibility for the disruption, prevention, investigation, and prosecution of all forms of cheating, including, but not limited to, match manipulation and doping” (free translation). In the scheme of things, this category would be closer to tournaments, operators and developers.
Addition: Education & Health
We are proposing this new category to cover initiatives in the area of health and education. While the entities in the previous category (Federation & Regulators) sometimes also have educational programs, various trainings and awareness campaigns, there are specialized organizations that do just that. For example, the Virtual Guardians Foundation is “a Canadian registered charity whose mission is to be a beacon on the Internet for people in distress as well as to promote responsible digital use” (trad. FGV, 2018). Another example, AnyKey (2015) is an organization that will fight for diversity and inclusion in the field. In this category, we also include various programs in educational institutions (e.g. UQTR) and different entities in the research community (e.g. Homo Ludens, AREFE, ERN). In the scheme of things, this category would be closer to the fans, players and teams.
Besombes, N. (2019). Esports Ecosystem and Landscape, Medium, https://email@example.com/esports-ecosystem-and-landscape-3dbbd653dc2c (mis en ligne le 29 juillet 2019).
Newzoo (2021). 2021 Esports Revenue Streams, https://newzoo.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Newzoo_Esports_Revenue_Streams-3-1920×1080.png
Savard, F. (2021). Qu’est-ce que le sport électronique? https://savard.work/2021/10/26/quest-ce-que-le-sport-electronique/ (mis en ligne le 26 oct. 2021).