As the gaming industry continues to improve with the introduction of new technologies, Countries and other State Actors are also taking cognizance of how big the industry has become.
So much so that the dynamics of influence have become outsized.
We reached out to Jonathan Anastas of ONE Championship to give us insights into the gaming industry.
Jonathan has been in the business of gaming marketing for more than a decade.
He has also served as the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Atari among other notable achievements.
Here is what he had to say.
Jonathan Ansatas Chairman at Alpha Tech
- Which countries are well on their way to controlling the gaming industry?
There are many ways to define power and scale in the gaming industry.
From a revenue perspective, the high GDP countries like the US, UK, China, Korea, Japan, or Brazil generate the most revenue for gaming today.
The industry then splits along platform lines. Looking at the console business, China and Korea fall down the list, and some other western European nations rise.
Looking at mobile gaming, Asia and India are new rising leaders.
However, Esports looks like a blend of all those dynamics with revenue driven by North America, Europe, China, and Korea.
From the perspective of the overall volume of players, though, I would say Asia and East Asia are on their way to leadership in the gaming industry.
- How big is the gaming industry now? Can you give us some statistics?
Although the industry is down slightly from the pandemic highs of last year, gaming is still rapidly expanding.
It is larger than $160 billion USD globally, with $65 billion USD of that coming from the US.
Moving forward, these numbers are expected to continue to increase in the coming years as new technology, games, and fans enter the scene.
- How fast is e-sports growing? Please, can you tell us more about this?
Esports is currently a bit over a billion-dollar USD business.
Up only slightly in 2020, given the COVID challenges to live events and tournaments, which are a huge revenue lever.
To grow at all with downward COVID pressure on Esports events is a testament to the category’s potential growth. Most traditional sports revenue fell dramatically in 2020.
However, going forward in Esports, ticketing and sponsorship of events will be strong, online ad revenue will be good, and branded content growth will be excellent.
Take what ONE Esports and Tumi have done in Asia, for an example of strong branded content.
An actual Esports gamer’s bag was created and launched.
Today, media rights deals lag audience scale – Esports is often already beating old-line sports for viewers – but the dollars haven’t followed yet looking at streaming rights or TV rights deals.
- What roles does censorship play in gaming and e-sports now? Please, can you give us examples?
In the west, despite some public debate when gaming gets pulled into broader cultural conversations around young men and violence, there is little censorship pressure today.
China, of course, just announced strict new limits on children’s gaming time.
The larger regulatory pressure in the west is around if things like if loot crates are a gambling product, general wagering in gaming, and data tracking and privacy, especially in the European Union.
- Which countries are we to be concerned about when it comes to censorship?
You never really know how the global political landscape will change. But – today – most of the recent gaming regulations have come from Asia.
Of course, this is with data-driven challenges set aside, which are very EU-centric.
- What do you think the role of government regulation should be when it comes to gaming?
Personally, and historically, at least in the US, I believe actions to date have shown that the government lacks the knowledge to regulate all things technology effectively and properly.
Nor regulate gaming, social, NFT, Crypto, etc.
For example, anyone who listened to the Senate hearings with Twitter, Facebook, and Google could not have possibly left with the confidence that these are the leaders capable of regulating technology with any logic or added value.
These multi-billion-dollar contributors to the US GDP should not be dragged down by poor government regulation.
Especially as old-time supply chains and employment equilibriums suffer, the US government needs to keep its hands off technology and gaming.
- What was your time like as CMO of Atari?
While I had worked in gaming on the ad agency side prior, Atari gave me the chance to learn how to be a brand-side global marketer.
It was a chance to enhance my learning and expand my role in the gaming industry. On top of that, Atari was the gaming company I grew up with.
They have legendary intellectual property, so it meant a lot to me personally as a gamer to work for them.
We were traded on the French exchange at the time; post-acquisition by Infogrames. Being a legendary brand, our merchandise sales dwarfed all of the big gaming giants, and in the end, more gamers wanted an Atari t-shirt than an EA t-shirt.
- Please, can you tell us more about your activities at ONE Championship?
My two years at ONE were a rocket ship ride.
If you think about the three largest digital content categories (stool legs) that global young men participate in, gaming, sports, and music, it was amazing to have the chance to build the third leg of the stool – sports.
Given that I’d worked deeply in the other two, it was a perfect fit. During that tenure, ONE rose in the rankings to become a ‘global top ten sports property’ per Nielsen and became the number two global sports property for digital video views per Tubular Labs.
And this was all despite the pandemic, which deeply challenged sports organizations around the world.
We were able to raise $70MM USD in funding around the height of COVID.
Lastly, it was great to re-train and re-flex my Asian marketing muscles as I worked to build viewership and reach in China, India, and across Southeast Asia.
My teammates were among the most driven and globally experienced executives I’ve worked with to date. Ex-Bain, ex-NBA, ex-Lazada, etc.
- What role will new technologies, such as blockchain technology, artificial intelligence, big data, and the internet of things (IoT) play in the development of the gaming industry?
Gaming is already one of the global winners in Blockchain, metaverse, data, and AI.
Often, gaming monetizes new technology better and quicker than most other media categories. So, I would say NFTs will likely be next.
- Should we be worried about any single country taking over the gaming industry? Please, can you tell us more about this with examples?
Being a global executive and marketer, I often see western arrogance, in terms of assumed western leadership and scale, without even acknowledging the power of the Chinese market and the Chinese gaming companies.
No one is likely better at digital monetization than the Chinese. And they have built amazing cross-category networks.
Think about if Facebook was also Twitter and EA and King rolled into one. That is what the scale and revenue of gaming companies look like in China.
- Where do you see the gaming industry in the next decade?
The Metaverse is clearly the next huge gaming opportunity.
Just look at what Minecraft and Roblox have done as an example.
And these are the first baby steps. A 2.0 version might be Axie Infinity, who just raised $152 million USD at a $3 billion dollar USD valuation by creating an ecosystem where one can earn money simply playing.
Esports will also explode as more casual players join in over time.
One of the reasons I took the Alpha Board Chair role was my belief that Alpha can capture these new casual Esports players at scale as they enter the category.
- How is gaming hardware changing? Please, can you tell us more about this?
We’re about to enter a gaming console transition as new Xbox and new PlayStation consoles are set to hit the market.
This usually means one down transitional year, followed by explosive growth as people hold off on buying new games until they get the new gaming box.
That being said, the growth of mobile gaming as a percentage of total gaming revenue means that console transitions won’t have the same total effect as they used to.
Lastly, cloud gaming was supposed to be transformational. But it has not made the expected impact to date, and ultimately, adoption and scale have lagged.
- How is generation Z adapting to the new gaming trends? Please, can you tell us your thoughts about this?
Gen Z is screen agnostic, device-agnostic, mobile-first, and comfortable with free-to-play and micro-trans models. And Esports IS AAA sports to them. Not baseball.
They don’t need a big screen, they don’t need a $500 console, and they don’t need to buy $60 premium games to participate. Hence, they are driving the explosion of mobile gaming and Esports.
The Gen Z demographic are also crypto-confident, NFT-friendly, and metaverse early adopters.
They will be leaders in all of these trends, where Gen Y and X will follow them in.
Of course, the bulk of total income and disposable income lies with Gens X and Y, so big winners will also need to attract them.
- Are there any new games you’d recommend to anyone? Please, can you tell us more about this?
I recommend Roblox to get people comfortable with the concept of transactional metaverses.
Axie Infinity for those more sophisticated. It’s still in its early days, but this is a great way to learn where a lot of gaming will go in the future.
I am also biased that Call of Duty is the most sophisticated and polished first-person shooter IP in the business.
From Vanguard to Call of Duty Mobile, be sure to participate in Call of Duty tournaments this November on Alpha Esport’s GamerzArena.
- What’s the best thing about gaming for you?
There are a few things.
For one, gaming teaches confidence.
Secondly, gaming teaches people mental and physical skills.
And lastly, gaming offers social connection and interaction.
The explosion of gaming during the pandemic wasn’t an accident.
People felt lonely, disconnected, and afraid.
Gaming offered connection with one’s current friends and allowed players to build new friendships.
I believe gaming lowered suicide rates and depression during COVID lockdowns as well as offered other mental health benefits.
In short, gaming is no longer a niche pursuit. It’s mass entertainment.
It’s pop culture.
Most importantly, it’s where tech meets content meets sports, an intersection I am highly passionate about.