Canada is ranked eighth to earn big money as an e-sports player, with total earnings amounting to over $27 million, a new report from gambling.com said. Experts say the country is a hotbed for the industry and a place to scale up as a player.
"An already billion-dollar industry, e-sports are projected to grow over 10 per cent in the next two years," the report said, adding that the ninth-best player in the world is from Canada.
Evan Kubes, president and co-founder of MKM Group esports, said in an interview that the industry has seen growth in the past two years mainly because of companies leveraging Canada's capital market system in order to raise money. He explains that the system is "at least in part responsible for the popularization of e-sports in Canada."
"[Companies] do this because the TSX allows corporations a more streamlined route to go public as compared to, for example, the NYSE," Kubes said. "[The popularization] brought with it an immense amount of capital, resources, and a general spotlight that have directly supported the development of Toronto's e-sports infrastructure and ecosystem."
As far as growth is concerned, Kubes says he's very bullish, noting that Canada is a key player on a global level competing in e-sports.
Kubes says most of the money will continue to remain in games that have been fully developed like Dota, Overwatch, and Fortnite.
"They have the most lucrative potential as it relates to prize winning as well as sponsorship dollars. Players will tend to steer toward that opportunity, which will provide them the most upside," he said.
According to a study conducted by the Entertainment Software Association of Canada (ESAC), 35 per cent of adult Canadians engaged in e-sports in 2020. That includes those who watched a tournament online, purchased e-sports-related digital or physical merchandise, gamers who have competed in a tournament, and those who have attended a tournament in person.
In February, OverActive Media confirmed details of a nearly $500-million project to construct a theatre-style e-sports venue in Toronto that can seat 7,000 people. Jayson Hilchie, president and chief executive officer of ESAC, said the project, which is expected to be completed in 2025, is a clear indication of people's interest in competing and watching e-sports.
In an interview, he said that with 61 per cent of Canadians being regular video game players, "it's no surprise that a portion of them are taking this seriously as a sport and a career."
Hilchie says in the past year, there's been "healthy engagement" in e-sports, adding that growth is relatively new and that he expects the level of engagement to rise.
He also highlights that interest is coming from a generation that enjoys watching other people compete.
"I grew up in an era where I wanted to take control. Give me the controller, when is it my turn? But for whatever reason the next generation loves it. It's the new sports. They don't care much for NHL. For them it's Overwatch, Dota, and Fortnite," Hilchie said.
"That's sports to them."
He also said there's plenty of potential for ad revenue and that advertisers are already starting to realize this.