Athletes undergo long hours of practice and training sessions – and esports athletes are no exception. But unlike other sports, there are still a lot of question marks around this niche-turned-mainstream activity.
With extended amounts of time in front of a screen, gamers are prone to an array of health concerns. Our upcoming webinar will address these issues, explore opportunities by examining the state of the market, including what perks gamers are seeking, how to deliver on these benefits, what the research says so far and how to translate that science into efficacious products.
NutraIngredients-USA has tapped leading esports experts to share what they’re seeing and hearing from gamers, identify the gaps and forecast trends.
How esports is changing new product development
Our panel of experts have had their sights on the industry long before it drew massive mainstream audiences. As the gamers and their audience grows more and more everyday, what esports athletes want to optimize their performance is becoming clearer.
“I feel the majority of what has been developed to this point has primarily been focused on cognitive performance, and to a lesser extent eye health,” explained Holden MacRae, PhD, co-founder, Chief Science Officer, Technology, Research & Data at FITGMR. “Traditional sport nutrition products are actually detrimental to cognitive performance, but there is little thought given to both products that can alter/reduce the onset of cognitive fatigue and at the same time offer a metabolic response that is not detrimental to a largely sedentary sport.”
Jason Chung, Executive Director of Esports at the University of New Haven, added that esports offers an entirely different lens when evaluating athlete performance. “Rather than focusing on gross motor skills, you’re looking at fine motor skills and continuous micro-decision in a dynamic environment with fewer opportunities for breaks in play. Sports nutrition companies have been grappling with how to address this audience and while they’ve tried to draw analogies with traditional sport, I believe they’re starting to find that physicality manifests completely differently in esports. After all, in terms of gross motor skills, esports athletes have way more in common with an office worker than an NFL player.”
“I’ve enjoyed seeing the esports category mature past energy and focus products. Those might still be the star, but it’s great to see supporting actors like visual health and protein become more prominent,” observed Joshua Schall, CPG industry strategist at J. Schall Consulting.
Category predictions and the rules of marketing
The esports industry had a record year in 2020 and most didn’t believe that could be topped. However, esports market research company Newzoo reported that the game industry grew to $180 billion in 2021, up from $174.9 billion in 2020.
When it comes to what to expect, MacRae said there will be increasing attention paid to addressing the factors that must be in place for success/excellence that we've seen in traditional sport. “The brain and nervous system take a massive beating in competitive gaming, so finding ways to unload at the appropriate times as well as accelerate the nervous system recovery process will be an important discovery.”
“The easiest prediction would be that the gamer nutrition category is only at the proverbial starting screen. In my opinion, the game hasn’t even technically started yet, so there is no reason for brands to rush strategies and allow FOMO to create bad first impressions with the esports audience,” said Schall. “Any sports nutrition brand that is looking at the esports trend should understand that authenticity is absolutely key to having any success in the market. Gamers want to support those in the community. So, a brand should be asking themselves ‘what can we do to impact this community genuinely and positively?’ Those actions should be in process even before launching a product. I think a product’s format can be as important as its nutritional value, so brands should lean into convenience and attaching themselves to natural routines.”
Chung said he believes we’ll see even greater engagement in terms of new product launches or refocused marketing for esports audiences by non-endemic beverage and food companies. “Sports nutrition product providers have a unique opportunity to highlight the positive health differences their ingredient can make within these products but they’ll have to work with their clients and partners and convince them that esports audiences are sophisticated enough to care about this.”
Experts to weigh in
With so many factors at play, there will be no shortage of talking points to cover. From gaming in education, to culture to shifts stemming from generational changes, Chung, MacRae and Schall are ready to sit down and talk all things esports on April 28 12 noon EST.
“The growing buy-in at the middle and high school level into scholastic esports, and how that connects to STEM education. Also that there are dozens of career pathways that high school esports athletes are being exposed to that they can pursue in college. Finally, the continuing professionalization of esports. Athletes want to be gamers and gamers want to be athletes (at least at the professional level),” explained MacRae. “I don't think the general public fully understands the incredible requirements to be a high level cognitive performer.”
“Attendees should expect to learn more about the esports business ecosystem and learn about what motivates esports audiences. Esports audiences are not 1-to-1 comparable to traditional sport audiences and companies seeking to engage in this space should seek to learn more about the culture underpinning this group of consumers,” said Chung.
“Due to my background, I will be staying in my lane and mostly speaking to the mass commercialization trends,” said Schall. “For those attending that haven’t heard me speak before, it won’t be out of the ordinary that I speak about upcoming tectonic shifts that will be caused from generational changes.”
Maximizing esports success: Meeting gamer demand
For more information and to register for this FREE webinar, please click here.