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Why communities are key to the rise of esports

Why communities are key to the rise of esports

7 Minute Read

The people behind the incredible growth of this industry aren’t the ones you’d expect. Fans have played a critical role in making esports into what it is today.

Partner, Assurance & Accounting
Senior Manager, General Practice

On April 22, 2021, the International Olympic Committee announced that, ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, they would launch the Olympic Virtual Series, including esports events. The organizers also recommended further engagement with video gaming communities and developing virtual sports as part of its Olympic Agenda 2020+5, which was approved in March 2021.

Coming from one of the largest sports events in the world, it’s a major nod to the explosion of esports. What was once misunderstood is now moving into the mainstream, and part of esports’ longevity is thanks to its strong, tight-knit community. While they may have considered themselves outcasts in society, they’re now leading the growth of an industry on their terms.

“Ten or 20 years ago, the entire education experience was dominated by sports. Whether you were in junior high or high school, everything revolved around sports,” says Ben Feferman, CEO of Amuka Esports. “There was this whole generation of kids that just were not athletic or interested, and were kind of ostracized by that societal norm.”

To understand the role local esports communities play in the larger esports ecosystem, we spoke with leaders in the space on how to build these connections within communities, and what makes the esports fan base different from other sports. 

Tight-knit connections

There are many stories of life-changing experiences that happen thanks to the esports community, says Arwina Mogul, founder of — a Toronto-based tech startup that seeks to gamify the online community experience. A longtime gamer and former Twitch partner, Mogul launched as a community management software that provides everything a brand needs to power its online community — from management and moderation tools, to subforums, data analytics, and gamified features.

“You have stories of some professional players getting kicked out of their homes because they played so many video games, but they stuck to their story and now they're retired because they made millions of dollars,” says Mogul. “There are also stories about couples that met through online communities, fell in love, and got married.”

With gaming traditionally being misunderstood, the community has underdog roots that underlie the camaraderie of the community.

“They found these mutual connections with people who were kind of shunned in the same way, from the same societal norms of athleticism in sports, and felt that bond with gaming,” says Feferman.

Increased accessibility fostering growth

The accessibility of games has contributed to the rise in the esports community since more people can participate.

“Many popular esports titles are mobile-first or have mobile versions,” says Alan Wu, director of business development at Battlefy, home to more than 250,000 thousand esports communities and leagues around the globe.

Much like your local YMCA, players and companies create communities and competitions on the platform, from amateur to college to professional. Battlefy also helps brands integrate into the experience and reach that coveted audience.

“The general population is also more tech-savvy and aware of different gaming options,” Wu explains.

There are also new programs and events that allow fans to watch and make connections and support new generations of gamers. Colleges are launching esports programs, and there are viable career options beyond just being a professional gamer.

“There are college scholarships and broadcast careers, and parents are starting to understand the benefits of their kids gaming with friends,” says Wu. “The large viewership and playership numbers have attracted more traditional advertisers to the industry, bringing with them even more mass appeal and legitimacy.”

Designing spaces for everyone

Grassroots and local communities play an important role in keeping esports fans engaged. To do this, Wu says that spaces and events should mirror traditional sports.

“When a parent signs their children up for a youth soccer camp for example, there are often tiers of skill level or different goals for each camp — for fun or competitive. In esports, skill level can often be loosely measured through a game’s built-in ranking systems,” he says.

“At Battlefy, we automate a lot of the in-game stats through our integrations and are able to separate out the very high-level players from the low-level players. This creates an environment that is more fun and engaging for all teams involved.”

For Feferman, whose company is behind the first esports arena in Canada, Waves Gaming, and a Windsor-based esports lounge, it’s about giving casual gamers the professional gaming experience. While Amuka initially tried to grow the community through tournaments, they found that strong gamers would come to collect money, but the community didn’t necessarily grow.

Amuka’s events allow the everyday person to feel the same competitive spirit and fun with their friends.

“When they come to a tournament, they're on the stage, and there's lights, and there's casters and for a couple of hours, we take them out of their regular life, and they can compete like pros, and that type of gaming experience is why people come out and play,” says Feferman.

Even local events can garner international appeal. For the last seven years, Mogul has organized an annual social event in Toronto where people could gather to watch a major esports event.

“It can be a satellite event, to a big event that's happening live in Seattle and giving out $40 million in prize pool,” Mogul says as an example of the kind of event she would organize. Through her socials, people could gather to watch large-scale events and connect based on shared interests.

“I've had people attend from all over the crowd so not just Torontonians, but people across Canada, people from the UK vacationing. It helps with the economy as well, and Canada actually has had a few international events that were held here, and they saw a massive income.”

With esports growing in popularity, the possibilities of engaging fans are endless. It’s really an interest that anyone can pick up at any time. You don't have to fit a profile to be an esports fan,” says Mogul.


To learn more about the esports industry, contact Reece Hiland, CPA, CA, Partner, at 647.943.4048 or [email protected], or David Campbell, Senior Manager, Technology, Media, and Telecommunications at 647.480.8437 or [email protected].


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