E-sports Services Are a Huge Startup Opportunity in 2017

December 5, 2016 - 3 minutes read

Two new patents entered the e-sports space this past week, as the app developers behind Skillz launched their service for scaling mobile games to spectator-ready tournaments. (For the unfamiliar, “e-sports” means “competitive gaming.”)

Skillz operates on a simple but whip-smart premise: making it simple for brands to turn any mobile game into a competitive event, acting as a digital middleman to take care of the logistics of prizes, skill matching, and other hassles of the scaling process.

The scrappy startup isn’t alone in aggressively pursuing the e-sports space, as major tech brands like Facebook, Google, and others have been developing standalone products and extensions for mobile gamers in the past year.

What does this mean for iOS app developers? It means that services supporting e-sports are a fast-growing category that’s receiving less public attention than “sexier” app ideas, such as Uber-clones in the sharing economy or banking solutions in the FinTech space.

Mobile gaming isn’t always the first to jump to mind for NYC app developers in search of their next great app idea, but it’s well worth a look — even for groups that are developing services rather than games. Mobile gaming revenue topped out at $3.31 billion USD this year, up from only $2.03 billion in 2013. That makes it one of the fastest-growing sectors in mobile tech, opening up a host of opportunities for developers of smart, back-end services like Skillz. Needless to say, where there’s money, there’s opportunity.

E-sports are also primed to hit it big if you follow the “first Asia, then US” school of thought for tech trends. Many major app concepts like messaging apps, chatbot interfaces, social stickers, and messaging-based multi-app platforms blew up in Asia years before becoming the norm in western countries. E-sports could fit into this category, as professional gaming is as big in Korea and other tech-heavy cultures as college football is here in the US. That said, the stigma attached to “gamers” is undoubtedly starting to wear off, as the popularity (and astronomical valuation) of Twitch will attest.

App developers who innovate as the mobile gaming category grows are sure to find big wins in the US market in the coming year.

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