It’s no secret that Puerto Rico’s economy has been badly hurt for over a decade and governments have all tried to find new niches that would help The Enchanted Island get back on her feet. One that we haven’t explored enough and has great momentum is the eSports industry.
I recognize that my thoughts are ambitious; however, Puerto Rico has the potential of being this industry’s heart in the Caribbean, just like Silicon Valley is home to the world’s biggest tech companies or Hollywood is to movie studios. This 100 x 35 piece of paradise could become a gaming hub in the center of the globe.
eSports is generally defined as competitive video games. Just like athletic sporting events, such as basketball or baseball, eSports encompasses competitions in different genres such as RTS (real-time strategy), shooters, fighting games, sport games and MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena), which can all be amateur, professional or simply as a hobby, and are often played before live audiences.
In case your mind is still not wrapping around the idea, the best description of how the eSports ecosystem works is this: teams play games, organized in leagues or tournaments, distributed on platforms to fans. For example the Green Bay Packers (the team) plays football (the game), organized in the NFL (the league), distributed on ESPN (the platform) to fans (the consumers).
Contrary to what some may want you to believe, eSports is not “symbolic of slackers or teenagers killing time.” It is a sport and a multimillion (about to reach a billion) dollar industry. According to Newzoo’s Global eSports Market Report 2020, global eSports revenues amounted to approximately $950.6 million in 2019 and is expected to grow over $1 billion in 2020, a year-on-year growth of +15.7 percent.
As an industry, eSports brings revenues from different sources. For instance, teams and players primarily make money off of prize money, which in 2019 totaled $167.4 million. Another way players earn a living is through salaries that are rapidly growing and are already much higher than the Average Joe’s income. You can find examples of average wages of $300,000 or some players like Heo ‘Huni’ Seung-Hoon making seven figures.
On the other hand, the largest portion of revenues in the industry comes from media rights and sponsorship. According to the same Newzoo report, these alone are expected to produce $822.4 million in revenues for 2020. In addition, ticket sales from major events generated $56.3 million in 2019.
These are only some areas of opportunity within the industry, which we must seek to reel in. Puerto Rico has the real estate, great human resources, some of the best universities, amazing weather year-round and the assurances that being a U.S. jurisdiction entails. In addition, with existing tax incentives for creative industries, the benefits of Acts 20 and 22, the island can be a tax haven for the video game and eSports industry. There should be nothing more to ask for.
I ask you this: Can Puerto Rico be The Next Big Thing in eSports? I say: Game on!