Video game competitions played before live and online audiences, known as eSports, has become a booming market, and 5G is poised to ramp up its popularity. Among Big Tech companies, Intel and Ericsson stated that 5G will increase the realism of game imagery and action and potentially allow more players from different venues to compete in a single event. Virtual reality games will also benefit from 5G’s dramatically increased speeds and will permit lighter form-factors than today’s bulky backpacks stuffed with computers.
The Wall Street Journal reports that, “Chinese entrepreneur Qi Xiao, who focuses on applications of virtual-reality technology for entertainment,” was inspired by sci-fi novel “Ready Player One” to create his VR startup Sky Limit Entertainment and, in 2018, received a “multimillion-dollar investment from Intel.” He and Intel are now working on 5G cloud-based processing so headset wearers will no longer have vertigo “due to blurred images in their headsets caused by slow bandwidths.”
“The trend is to bring everything onto the cloud so even if people are far away from each other, they can still be in the same space via 5G networks for real-time battles,” said Qi.
WSJ adds that, “when virtual reality is used in eSports, the action is more like a traditional sporting match, in that players are physically active.” Greenlight Insights managing director J.C. Kuang noted that, “the new ability to see the players actually moving around and testing their physical abilities provides an extra thrill.”
Intel’s involvement in eSports goes back to 2017 with its sponsorships of game-competition tour Intel Extreme Masters and early VR game experiments. Now, Sky Limit and Intel are “co-hosting a series of VR competitions using 5G,” with planned tournaments in China, Thailand, South Korea and Singapore.
ABI Research estimates that the market for dedicated cloud-gaming services will become “a $6.3 billion opportunity by 2024, growing from $640 million in 2020.” It further predicts that, “the Asia-Pacific region would account for 45 percent of the market, followed by North America with 26 percent.” In Asia, “China is at the forefront both of eSports and 5G,” led by DouYu International Holdings’ platform, backed by Tencent Holdings.
WSJ reports that, “VR video game tournaments are scheduled this summer in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai … [and] arenas for eSports are even part of the economic development plan in Beijing’s Haidian district, the country’s closest equivalent to Silicon Valley.”
That district’s government plan also “calls for roughly $1.55 million in subsidies for companies hosting local eSports events using 5G, virtual reality or other technologies.” Tencent vice president Cheng Wu predicted that, in the future, we’ll see “virtual characters serving as tournament commentators and artificial-intelligence trainers for eSports athletes.”