By Gian Luca Vitale and Koray Anil Akman. Although the esports industry is growing rapidly, not all sectors of the economy are currently participating in this development. B2B-oriented companies in particular are rightly asking themselves how to deal with this issue, since, unlike B2C-oriented companies, they do not have lifestyle, entertainment or consumer products that require targeted access to the young target group. In contrast to B2C-oriented companies, they cannot just position their wares through social media, influencers, esports teams or league engagements.
However, what unites all companies—whether B2B, B2C, B2B2C or business to human—is that they need talents to ensure the success of their companies through the digital age. It is here that corporate esports finds its sweet spot as a future topic in employer branding, skill development and talent acquisition. Those companies that act now and see the topic of esports from a larger perspective will benefit in the long term and be known as pioneers and probably built an advantage in the market.
The boundaries between work and private life are increasingly blurred these days. However, the influence of personal interests on our professional methods has always played a major role in our everyday work. As a result, those in charge have always kept an eye on personal disposition when selecting talents. In the future, it is therefore likely that HR professionals looking for talents with a STEM background, knowledge workers, creatives and professionals in general will be dealing with the mindset and skills of esports athletes and enthusiasts. There are plenty of aspects revealed by the esports and gaming mindset. The speed with which this topic is spreading can be explained by the structure of experts and opinion leaders who are increasingly taking up and positioning the topics. On the one hand, there are “The Prophets,” who act as an echo and inspire voices. Admittedly, The Prophets are a small group with incredible networks, and they have been pushing the topic of esports and gaming for 20 years or more in some cases. Inspired by these Prophets, it is “The Evangelists” who are actively founding start-ups with new products and services, leading esports organizations, running dedicated and specialized agencies, writing editorials and developing and testing new business models. These professionals are increasingly coming into leadership positions or advising senior decision makers, revealing the development opportunities in esports through tremendous persuasion, the power of the word and courageous deeds. They do a large part of the groundwork for a cohort of knowledgeable people who will be colleagues and talents in the future: “The Knowers”—a generation for whom esports and gaming is a natural part of their DNA and who demand the same from companies. Understanding is important, but so are the culture and characteristics of esports and gaming and how they influence thinking, attitudes, behavior and habits. Such factors will be so strongly demanded that they will act as a force for rapid change. We are already in the third wave. In the near future, companies will have to adapt more strongly to these movements and mechanisms and have an answer ready.
Esports athletes and enthusiasts have internalized the team-hero-moment effect, which is characterized by the ability to play a dedicated role in the team while also taking responsibility, standing out under pressure, supporting the team in the best possible way and rising to greatness when their skill is needed the most. Especially in the digital age, where we have to develop and internalize new topics quickly and move in digital teams, acting as a team and as individual experts while also taking responsibility it is a central success factor. This mindset will be even more in demand in the future and brought in by esports enthusiasts.
Esports athletes and enthusiasts also bring a sense of care and preparation, a high level of commitment and an in-depth view of issues to the table. Today’s economy and professional life are becoming more complex, and an overall end-to-end understanding is increasingly essential. The complexity of systems, processes and interfaces also makes it necessary to deal with topics in depth. This ability goes along with the character of esports titles, which are often easy to learn but hard to master. Esports athletes always bring with them the ability to develop a devotion for topics with interest and to transfer this into a successful action.
Esports athletes and enthusiasts have a strong sense of flexibility and are used to constantly changing and adapting to these changes. They have a strong spirit for synergies and networked thinking. This comes from the fact that game content and the meta design changes in short cycles due to patches and from the need to master these changes in the best possible way. The different possibilities and variables in a game constantly require a player to combine the best components and use synergy effects. At the same time, the overall system—consisting of technology, the community and various stakeholders—creates a strong understanding of networks.
Enough sources have already shown that esports athletes and enthusiasts are true digital natives, moving effortlessly on different platforms, using different technologies and yet never losing sight of the sense of the physical world. In addition, the majority of these talents are highly educated and, contrary to popular misconception, have a wide range of interests and a high level of enthusiasm.
To make use of these advantages, companies need a well-designed and properly integrated concept. Using esports and gaming allows them to meet several company needs and opens up new possibilities. Esports and gaming can be used as an effective way of attracting new talent and employees while also reducing the churn of employees in the long run through deeper loyalty and engagement. Esports and gaming enable a more open and playful approach to engagement and a better understanding of the needs and desires of talents and employees during such events. They offer an excellent platform to improve internal networks at local, national and international level. The playful, emotional and experiential context makes it possible to create space for inspiration and broaden horizons. However, this can only be achieved if esports becomes a natural part of corporate culture and the activities are used in a sustainable and appropriate way. Given the right courage, esports can also help transform corporate culture, and the playful character can contribute to the move toward a digital future. The question is therefore not whether it gains relevance, but with what speed, as it is a natural question of time, personal disposition and the synergy between private and professional interests. Companies must therefore be prepared for this wave, develop sustainable concepts and integrate the topic holistically into corporate culture rather than making the promise at the door. The guiding principle here is to make the promise, enable the promise and deliver the promise constantly.
Besides their technical gaming skills, the target groups also have common soft skills. Companies use gaming to assess the skills of applicants. It requires quantitative skills and the ability to adapt your thinking quickly. Because these skills are needed in day-to-day business, it is essential to use these methods to identify the skills of the applicants, which do not appear in a resume. In the long term, corporations that use these methods in their interview and overall assessment process will most likely gain an edge on their competitors because they can hire the best associates, which are the assets of every company.
Such methods can be used outside the interview process as well. Gaming workshops will become more common in the near future. Companies’ main goal in these workshops is to improve the ability of their employees and workshops for skill assessment in a more playful and friendly environment. To actually get ahead and be successful, many different sets of skills—like strategic, tactical and analytical thinking, conceptual thinking, multitasking capability, stress resistance, team spirit, rhetorical and communication skills, English language skills, peripheral awareness and quick decision-making—are required. Leading companies are looking for exactly the same skills. The most popular games in the esports market are team games that require a maximum amount of synergy and team effort. These games push the team spirit, which is a key driver to succeed in games and in day-to-day business. With such methods, companies can improve the ability of the employees faster than other competitors, leading to higher productivity among employees.
To find and acquire such talents successfully, modern digital HR solutions are a key factor. Many companies are aware of the competitive pressure for fighting for these talents. Companies use digital HR solutions as a tool to attract young talents. The general approach is to acquire them as early as possible. The esports business allows players to work from home without necessarily sitting next to team members or colleagues. HR needs to adjust to the remote working environment in the future. This has never been more important during the COVID-19 and the esports and gaming mindset suits the related requirements perfectly. Esports athletes and enthusiasts welcome this new working environment and fit perfectly into these new conditions.
What makes esports attractive from a corporate perspective is the broad range of business development opportunities and being an integral part of a larger economic ecosystem. The tremendous amount of consumers and their passion for the esports titles, teams and different leagues lead a lot of corporates to design marketing strategies and value propositions with this target group in mind. Successful marketing strategies reach consumers in an authentic way and create additional value for them. The key is to establish joint business relationships with other corporations in order to generate greater value. Corporates have more ways to secure a stronger market position in the long run if experts are recruited from the target group itself. Products and services must be engineered and tailored by gamers for gamers to achieve a long-term balance between internal and external experts so that strategies, products and services can be developed and implemented faster. Currently, companies are still extremely dependent on external experts, such as specialized agencies, when it comes to esports topics.
Another possibility for companies is the development of dual training systems. Outstanding examples are to be found in Asia, where talented people can complete a dual course of study. On the one hand, they learn all aspects of esports—theory, tactics and practice—in a highly professional, end-to-end environment. In addition, the talents study a topic relevant to the industry, such as information technology, management or marketing. Initiatives supported by companies in this area create interesting opportunities to benefit from development. Therefore, we will see an increasing number of universities that offer esports courses combined with professional training and development opportunities. Young, motivated talents are prepared in different games for a possible career in professional esports. Many talent scouts and agencies observe the students to find one which fulfills the requirements for a potential acquisition. The students are very committed to getting acquired by one team due to the high competition in esports. As not every talent can become a professional, these concepts also offer more sustainability, therefore ensuring that a professional career path in the sector can be started where the skills learned from the sport are an excellent addition to the classic skillset. The possibility of esports-related scholarships will also be more in focus and will receive more attention in the future. This development area offers excellent opportunities for companies to get involved in esports.
Understanding that esports and gaming are much more than entertainment and live sports opens up opportunities far away from pure product placement and brand development. These dynamics and opportunities will increase in the short to medium term, lead to the further growth of the whole esports ecosystem and offer more corporates the opportunity to participate in the changing force of esports and gaming.
Partner, PwC Germany
Tel: +49 40 6378-1659
Partner, PwC Germany
Tel: +49 89 5790-6711
Gian Luca Vitale
Senior Associate, PwC Germany
Tel: +49 211 981-1477
Senior Associate, PwC Germany
Tel: 49 69 9585-6120
Koray Anil Akman
Associate, PwC Germany
Tel: 49 69 9585-1701