Sportification might well become the new mantra of the gameindustry! The game industry is slowly conquering the sportsindusty and is about to enter its end game: the sportification of existing and newly developed games. Put your VR goggles on, transform into an e-athlete and become a live participant in your own favorite egame. Let’s move!
Imagine a future where you are the participant in your own game. No, even better, where you are the game! With the help of virtual reality and your goggles, you will become a sweating VR athlete, not behind a screen but in an arena or playground where you have to use your athletic abilities in order to win. Turning e-games into real action sports, that’s what sportification is! It is targeting GenZ and posing a big threat to traditional sports.
Cutting edge technology is disrupting sports- and gamesindustries
Long are the days gone that it was relatively easy to determine what to do with your spare time. Technology had not really entered our lifes yet and choices were pretty well spelled out for us. In general we played a boardgame or we spend some time on the tenniscourt or soccerfield. Sports and games were the name of the game! Sounds pretty oldfashioned, does it not?
A lot has changed since then! Sports and games still play an important role in our lifes, but both the game- and sportsindustries have changed big time. The disruptive factor clearly can be found in the arrival of cutting edge technology, which has resulted in the convergence of sports and games.
A brief history of the sports related game industry
Lets take a quick dip in the history of the sports related game industry, which can be divided in 4 different phases. But first some fun! Watch the video below! I am sure you remember a few of these games!
All right, let’s plunge into the past!
Phase 1: the 60’s
- No technology, peaceful coexistence of sports and games
- Games and sports are standalone industries
In the 1960’s life was relatively easy. People played a game or participated in a sport to meet up with other friends and locals. And yes, there were also some sports related games in those early days. You might well remember the ever popular table football game or maybe you can recall Subuteo, which was also a table top game simulating a team sport (football). In those days everything was tranquil and the game industry did not interfere with the sports industry at all. However, a sleeping giant was about to be awakened.
Phase 2: 70’s – early 2000
- The arrival of technology disrupts the game industry
- First electronic sportsgames are entering the stage
Let’s go back to 1972 when technology entered the equation. You may remember Magnavox and Atari introducing the Pong game, which was kind of a tennis game. Pong was not the first video game, but it was the first mainstream one. When you look back at it, it was too simplistic for words. However, loads of people were totally thrilled by it. It really marked the beginning of e-sports. Quickly new sporting games were entering the stage such as the simplified versions of Davis Cup and Soccer.
The beginning of the eighties was marked by consoles such as Atari and Commodore, platforms that quickly introduced new games. With improved graphics more sophistication came to the fore and the first Madden games were a fact. In the mid nineties and early 2000s platforms of Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft and software developers like EA sports saw the light and took over. Many new sports games were introduced.
Looking back at this period, you can conclude that technology started to disrupt the original game industry. However, the sports world was still living in a bubble and did not really suffer yet! It didn’t see a major threat from technology nor from the game industry. Does this mean that the sports industry didn’t suffer at all? No, it did to some extent. The culprit was that it now had to increasingly compete for time of young adults, as this group started to spend more time on their gamecomputers. Was this a pre-warning? If it was, the sporting world didn’t notice it!
Phase 3: 2006-2020
- The gaming industry starts to disrupt the sports industry
- The big game revolution: gamification and Esports
Looking back at it, 2006 might well have been the big turning point. Armed with the latest technology, the game industry set its mark and started to disrupt the sports industry. Two major developments started to filter through:
1. E-sports becoming a real sport
Fun Technologies organized the first Worldwide Webgames Championships in 2006. 71 players competed for a first prize of 1 mln USD. This marked the beginning of the explosion of e-sports, one of the 11 main trends in the sportsindustry. From this time onwards, prize pools started to grow exponentially and gamers started to professionalize.
In 2019 the total prize money in overall e-sports amounted to $194 mln and this number is growing fast. E-sports has grown big, attracting huge audiences and filling up stadiums. Increasingly it is seen as a real sports and even the IOC recently said that competitive gaming entails physical activity which can be compared to that required in traditional sports. It should therefore be not excluded that E-sports will become Olympic in the
2. Gamification of sports begins
In 2006 the Wii was introduced. This game console was the first one, which, with the help of controllers, allowed for sports video games to actually be played like a real sport. Although the console never really took off, it probably marks the first real beginning of the gamification of sports. You may recall for example Wii-fit, Wii-bowling, golf and tennis?
What is gamification, you might wonder. Gamification can be defined as the process of adding games or game-like elements to something (quite often a sport) in order to encourage participation and/or improve performance.
Anyway, back to the Wii. From the time onwards it was introduced, the gamification trend really started to take off! Not only the gamedevelopers took advantage, manufacturers of wearables were also entering the stage and taking a piece of the pie. Brands like Strava, Nike (Nike Fuel band), Fitbit and Garmin are just a few examples of players that were taking advantage of the gamification trend. By the way, they still do!
Sports participants have changed into game players……..
Why did these two developments matter? Because they marked the beginning of sports and games increasingly converging with each other. For the first time it became visible that the game industry could make an impact on sports and even more important, that it could compete with it. The game industry seemed to be more than aware of this. A big pot of gold was at the horizon.
But where was the sports industry? Sports equipment manufacturers seemed to be aware and reacted. However, sports federations still remained conservative and seemed not to acknowledge the threat. Or were they just too arrogant to admit? The sports these federations represented had been around for ages, so why bother? They should be bothered because the figures tell differently! Traditional sports in mature markets are seeing participation rates to go down. E-games (and new sports) are eating away market share.
Phase 4: 2020 – …….
- Gaming industry starts to disintegrate the traditional sports industry
- E-sports starting to take off.
- Sportification possibly to become the new mantra of the game industry
Now that the game industry has tested the waters and has fueled confidence, it has realised it can make more than a few ripples. It is time for the next stage! Its strategy seems again to be twofold.
1. Take gamification to the next level and let the fan decide on whats happening during real sports games.
You can read in my blog on fans calling the shots that interactivity between fans and gameplay is becoming ever more important. Fans are used to make their own decisions in the e-games they play. However,they also would embrace the opportunity to be involved in the real deal! Being a football manager or racing director in a game or choosing your own players in Fifa is no longer enough for most of them! They want to be at the steering wheel and have a say in real sports!
In the US there is now a fan controlled football league, where fans decide on which play will be executed, which players will be bought and sold, which colors the teamjerseys should have etc. The fans in this league make the calls. In soccer there is a team in France, which is also controlled by the fans, whilst in Formula E, fans can decide on which driver will get a power boost. I am sure, we will see more of this in the future in order to enhance fan engagement.
2. Sportification will be the next new mantra of the game industry
If you can gamify sports, why not sportifying games? In my opinion, this will be the end game of the game industry! Let’s take an example! Imagine Fortnite! Not on your computer or TV screen, but live! You are becoming the participant in your own game! Again, live! It means making all the moves with your own body in for example an old factory complex. Put your goggles on and go! They do already exist! VRarcades (as some of them are called) are popping up everywhere (see video)! You really can become a VR athlete here.
Undoubtedly this will evolve in future sports tournaments: taking e-sports to the next level! New professional athletes will stand up and train for this sport. This will be e-sports 3.0. GenZ will love it and hence it poses a big threat to loads of traditional sports which stand to lose further market share.
What can the sports industry do?
As said before, the traditional sports industry has not been very pro-active sofar. It is not surprising given the fact that most federations are headed by older people. It means they are not fully aware or at least are not fully acknowledging these trends. So far, they have adopted a sit and wait strategy.
However, it is not too late! If they adopt a more pro-active strategy and are willing to change their sports, there is still lots to play for, given their huge followings. Introducing technology where possible and co-creating with the game industry may stop the rot. Gamification will be a must in order to survive as a sport in the longer term. Federations should start to think like real businesses.
I realise I may have exaggerated a bit, but I firmly believe these trends will play an important role going forward. Sportification is likely to become the new mantra of the game industry. What do you believe? Share your thoughts below! Most appreciated!