Erdinç Iyikul: Lucrative E-sports Market
Erdinç İyikul, the Director of Publishing in Riot Games Turkey, explains how the League of Legends has managed to reach a point to contest football in global championships and to enlarge the pie of e-sports market globally. Riot Games, famous for being an innovative and player-friendly company, is now looking for breakthroughs.
When did digital games rise to the sports level? As a writer on games, you are one of the best followers of the sector.
The development of technology and internet infrastructure increases both the accessibility and the diversity of games. The world of games and players continues to expand on a global basis. Today, the game industry is one of the largest in the world with a volume exceeding $ 150 billion, and e-sports market is growing significantly each year.
When we look at many features like the number of players, audience, technical skills, tactics, team harmony, competition, the size of the organizations made, the new generation’s internalization of the virtual world and the fact that they feel more sociable in this world, we can clearly see why and how digital games have come to be regarded as “sports”. E-sports, where intelligence and team-play stand out, require a deep strategic perspective, training, work, and skills. The features I mentioned above, combined with investments of big brands in the sector, have created a growing e-sports market day by day. As Riot Games, we are the flag carrier of the game and e-sports market in Turkey with investments in the market since 2012.
“The revenue of the gaming industry in Turkey has exceeded 850 million dollars in 2018. There are more than 31 million players in our country when mobile games are also taken into account. Approximately half of them (although not clear) is predominantly PC and console players. They are actually the ‘hardcore’ audience, as we call it.”
THE RISE OF RIOT GAMES
What are some reasons why League of Legends (or LoL in short, as the fans call it) gained global popularity?
LoL is the most played online PC game with over 100 million players per month on a global level. Unlike most other games, you can’t jump levels by spending money. The better you play thanks to your abilities and reflexes, the more you advance in this competitive game. LoL is a MOBA type of game and that also explains its popularity. Two competing teams of five players try to destroy each other’s tower on a map of three main roads. Besides, LoL constantly renews itself. The latest game mode called “Tactical-Wars”, for example, is like a game within the game offering a new experience.
If we examined Riot Games as a business model, what would we learn?
When we first emerged in Turkey as Riot Games, e-sports was far from being professional, while big brands and clubs were rarely a part of this ecosystem. But today, e-sports is among the branches that attract the highest number of spectators after football. We are making long-term plans for the sustainability of this sport in our country, which would last for generations to come. The major structural change we made in the LoL ecosystem at the beginning of 2019 would summarize our business plan and outlook:
As of the 2019 season, we implemented a new system in which teams can compete for three years without falling from the league. Thus, the teams will be able to make long-term planning. In collaboration with the teams, we aim to invest more in the details that would shape the future of e-sports, such as training facilities, working methods, and player development from the ground. We made an important change to support young players to gain experience and become a part of the strong teams. By positioning an “Academy League”, where teams compete for Vodafone FreeZone Championship League, we developed a league structure where young players can now gain experience and reveal their potential as in classical sports.
Our other investments include university collaborations we made to cultivate e-sports stars of the future, bringing our servers to Turkey with a cost of 10 million TRY in 2017, and finally the opening of Riot Games Esports Arena (Turkey’s first and Europe’s largest center) in January 2019.
INVESTING IN E-SPORTS MARKET
Can you give any striking figures about the game world?
Today, the game industry is one of the largest sectors in the world with a volume exceeding $ 150 billion. In terms of revenues, it is dominated by three countries (China, USA, and Japan). The gaming industry is expected to grow 9.6 % annually on a global scale and generate a revenue of $ 152.1 billion in 2019. 45 % of this amount (68.5 billion dollars) is expected to come from mobile platforms, while game consoles rank number two with 47.9 billion dollars, and finally, computers are expected to take the third place with 35.7 billion dollars. By 2022, the market volume is estimated to reach $ 196 billion.
The revenue of the gaming industry in Turkey has exceeded 850 million dollars in 2018. There are more than 31 million players in our country when mobile games are also taken into account. Approximately half of them (although not clear) is predominantly PC and console players. They are actually the “hardcore” audience, as we call it.
According to researches, the number of e-sports fans in our country has reached a total of 4 million. While thousands participate in live events organized by Riot Games, millions watch from their screens. Only in 2019, almost 2 million unique online viewers watched the live stream of the Grand Finals of Turkey.
“The potential of Turkey in the gaming world is substantially high, especially when our young population is considered. Of course, one can invest in different segments of this ecosystem: it is possible to invest in teams, leagues organized by e-sports organizations, or special tournaments and even players.”
Where could investors be involved in this ecosystem?
Investors should interpret it as playing a leading role in the development of a rising global trend in our country. The potential of Turkey in the gaming world is substantially high, especially when our young population is considered. Of course, one can invest in different segments of this ecosystem: it is possible to invest in teams, leagues organized by e-sports organizations, or special tournaments and even players. Investments made to the organizations and teams have different values, of course. The primary choice of investors is usually e-sports teams. E-sports can be compared to the initial years of football actually. The sector is at the phase of steady development and still offers good opportunities for investors, who would like to own the e-sports clubs and brands of the future.
What are the latest surprising innovations of the gaming world for you?
Recently, I am particularly interested in investments in cloud systems and VR. I can say that Google’s Stadia investment and promises have excited me. It seems that the system will not serve our country initially, but if it works as planned, it could open new gates for the gaming world. Likewise, the investments of hardware companies in VR are impressive. Oculus Quest seems to have removed the current limitations of VR. This means new gaming experiences for different platforms.
What is your projection of the future in Riot Games? What direction will the story take?
Now LoL is our only game. As Riot Games, our plans for the future include supplying a variety of new gaming experiences as thrilling as League of Legends. Although we cannot give a clear date, I can say that we are working on new games and are excited to create good experiences.