Events

“There are at least 3–4 million esports fans in Russia”: ESforce Holding speakers discuss esports industry prospects at SPIEF

Today’s panel session titled, Cybersport: Global Trends in Sports and Business at the 22nd St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) gathered key representatives of state, business, sports and infrastructure organizations interested in development of esports in Russia. Two ESforce speakers participated in the session: Anton Cherepennikov, ESforce Holding CEO and board member, and Roman Dvoryankin, general manager of Virtus.pro.

The session moderator and Match TV general producer Tinatin Kandelaki presented a summary of the global esports industry’s growth today. Competitive esports events have seen a 25-percent annual growth in viewership, while cumulative audience of esports — after no more than 30 years of development — is now approaching that of centuries-old traditional sports such as ice hockey or football. In Russia, esports tournaments have been gathering both record attendance at arenas and record online viewership, and drawing close attention from Russian and international sponsors and investors.

ESforce co-founder Anton Cherepennikov spoke about Russian esports’ positions compared to other regions of the world, the actual size of esports tournament audiences in Russia, as well as the differences between electronic and traditional sports. “Russia is among global leaders in both esports infrastructure and the performance of teams with CIS rosters in various disciplines. As for investment into esports, Russia is not among the leaders here due to a limited capacity of the domestic advertising market, notwithstanding that ESforce’s revenue volume is the second largest in the world.

According to Anton Cherepennikov, the largest esports competitions are consistently gathering large audiences, both in Russia and globally. For example, one of the final matches at the recent EPICENTER XL in Dota 2, held in Moscow, was watched by 5.2 million viewers across the world on Twitch. “It was Twitch that helped take the esports ecosystem to a new level, even though its origins and early development date back to the 80s. The rapid increase in competition viewership resulted in an interest in esports from investors,” Anton Cherepennikov commented. The ESforce co-owner estimated the size of the loyal Russian-speaking esports audience at 3–4 million people.

Esports’ ample online presence and low threshold of entry are giving talented esports players from anywhere in Russia or other CIS countries an opportunity to become noticed. This was the topic of the talk by Roman Dvoryankin, general manager of Virtus.pro, part of ESforce Holding. “Much like a Brazilian boy kicking a ball around can be spotted by a scout and take his chance at a career in football, so can a simple 19-year-old young man from Novokuznetsk spend a few hours a day at the local cybercafé, perform well, and go on to become one of the best esports players in the world.” He was, of course, referring to Roman “RAMZES666” Kushnarev, a player on Virtus.pro’s Dota 2 roster. According to Roman Dvoryankin, esports gives young professional players across Russia an opportunity to earn a salary several times higher than the average for their regions. Later, these players can continue their careers as coaches or esports functionaries, further developing the industry’s ecosystem.

A full video of the session is available at this link.