The disruption of traditional sports during the pandemic and the increase in people streaming from mobile devices has resulted in more money — and viewership — for e-sports.

Audiences for e-sports — otherwise known as competitive video gaming — are expected to grow 8.7% this year to 474 million. Revenue is projected at about $1.1 billion, a 14.5% increase from 2020, according to market researcher Newzoo. Of the revenue, $833.6 million will come from media rights and sponsorships.

“From a fan perspective, there’s no question that when all traditional sports had to shut down, it was an opportunity for e-sports to be more on the public consciousness,” said Brett Diamond, chief operating officer of Eagan-based Version1, a pro e-sports organization owned by the Wilf family, which also owns the Minnesota Vikings. “The key coming out of the pandemic and going forward for our industry is continuing to engage the new fans that came in during that period.”

The Twin Cities has a growing e-sports industry led by the area’s pro sports franchises.

Version1 launched two years ago through a partnership between the Wilfs and serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. The company operates three teams: Minnesota Røkkr, which is part of a league playing Call of Duty; a team playing Rocket League, which is more family-friendly; and most recently, a team playing in the Valorant Champions Tour.

Earlier this summer, Version1 announced a multiyear sponsorship deal between Minnesota Rokker and USAA, a provider of insurance, banking, investment and retirement services to members of the U.S. military. The deal is the company’s largest to date.

Year-over-year sponsorship revenue for Version1 has more than doubled, and Diamond expects the organization will announce three to four more sponsorship deals over the next 18 months.

“I honestly believe that in five years, maybe less, every brand with a significant marketing budget will think about e-sports the same way that those brands think about traditional sports today,” he said.

The company also recently launched V1sionaries, a platform for female gamers that has already hosted cash-prize tournaments.

It also is opening its new headquarters at the Vikings’ TCO Performance Center in Eagan to the general public. Fans that are attending Vikings …….


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