A DIGITAL AUDIENCE WHO ARE GOING FNATIC: WHO CARES ABOUT ESPORTS?

Two weeks ago we covered the basics of eSports. If you missed that and don’t know anything about eSports you can catch up here.  Today we’ll delve deeper into the social conversations emerging via a Brandwatch eSports query that we’ve had running now since January ’17.

ESports are inherently digital activities, but when a gathering does take place, it’s huge, both offline and on.  In this blog, we’re going to look specifically at what got audiences talking most around a significant event that recently took place in the eSports calendar: the ELeague Major.

 

WHAT’S THE ELEAGUE MAJOR?

Over the last week of January 2017 in Atlanta, Turner Broadcasting hosted one of the biggest Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournaments to date, during which the best teams in the world competed for their share of a $1 million prize pool.

Generating record-breaking viewing figures on both internet stream platforms (YouTube Gaming and Twitch) and on television, with an estimated 2.2 million concurrent viewer peak over all platforms, the ELeague Major is one of the biggest global stages that a professional eSports team can play on.

 

WHO WON THE BATTLE FOR SHARE OF AUDIENCE VOICE?

We looked first at an isolated dataset of audience conversations specifically relating to the professional eSports teams fighting it out over the Group Stages and Playoffs to determine who won the battle for audience ‘share of voice’ during the ELeague Major.

 

Source: Disruptive Insight thematic analysis using Brandwatch, May 2017

What we found surprised us here at DI.  While Astralis were crowned world champions in 2017, beating Virtus.Pro in the tournament playoffs, neither Astralis nor Virtus.Pro won the greatest share of audience voice around the ELeague Major event.

That title went to Fnatic, a Swedish team knocked out in the semi-final rounds.  But why?  It turns out that, just like any other sport, changes to a team’s roster can really set the proverbial cat among the pigeons, instigating high levels of fan speculation and reaction.

 

LEFT: Team Fnatic’s current roster (Source: Liquipedia.net)
RIGHT: Astralis with their ELeague Major 2017 trophy (Source: Astralis.gg)

Fnatic overshadowed the earlier stages of the event when they announced that two previous players (‘JW’ and ‘Flusha’) would be returning to the roster FOLLOWING the ELeague Major.

With this single announcement, about a team change that wouldn’t even impact the currently competing roster, Team Fnatic were able to dominate audience share of voice around this major event.

“omg yes <3 i miss old fnatic”

Many analysts in the industry regarded this line-up announcement as the return of the best Counter-Strike team line up of all time – claiming the post ELeague Major Fnatic team to be virtually unbeatable.

Needless to say, this generated substantial levels of conversation throughout the tournament, as users shared their hope that the team would no doubt return to their former glory after ELeague.

In doing so, they not only resoundingly stole the show from the actual world champions Astralis but also somewhat soured their win by implying that their title as reigning champions may turn out to be short-lived.

Another (somewhat less scandalous but nonetheless interesting) finding was the share of voice ranking of Virtus.Pro.

Even though this team competed in the tense playoff finals against champs Astralis, they ranked 4th in conversational volume behind SK Gaming.  Arguably, this is because SK Gaming were the incumbent world champs until the ELeague Major final of 29th Jan ’17.

Taking the time to uncover these types of findings is potentially inestimable for team organisations and sponsors or potential sponsors.  As with any other sport, team or professional competitor, a well-timed announcement can upend and disrupt audience engagement (for or against your favour) with tremendous impact and effect.

 

CONVERSATIONAL CLIMAXES

Stepping back to look at the period leading up to, into and around the actual ELeague Major event we observed very clear conversational peaks and traffic patterns.

Source: DI Data Research Query, “Volume of mentions over January 2017” via Brandwatch.com

The live event took place between 22nd – 29th January with a day’s break on 26th January between the Group Stages and Playoffs.

Levels of audience excitement and engagement around the Playoffs are apparent, registering 60% more conversational traffic than the highest peak during the Group Stages.

The smaller peak registering on 18th January aligns with Fnatic’s big pre-event roster announcement.  Standard analysis would likely only seek to attribute this one peak to Fnatic, yet as we saw in the previous section of this blog, the ripple effect of this single announcement went on to see Fnatic dominate all other team-based audience conversations.

Source: DI Data Research Query, “Volume of mentions per hour during the final day of the tournament” via Brandwatch.com

 

EMOTIONALLY DRAINING SUPPORT

Like any major sporting final, the ELeague Major saw fans grappling to handle the intensity and tension playing out in the final moments of the game:

OMG so hyped, this match is taking years off my life… this 3rd map is intense!

A few users also humorously place the blame for a lack of productivity on 29th January firmly at the door of ELeague:

 “Thanks @EL for ruining my studing (sic)”

Fans also vented in-the-moment via Twitter, sharing their emotions towards play, in-game results and in-stadium behaviours:

This crowd needs to shut up when someone’s being sneaky.”

As the gruelling tournament drew to a finale, a clear peak of reflective expression was observed with audiences sharing reactions relating to the outcome alongside their own experiences as spectators:

 “congrarzz to the best team in the world @astralisgg #ELEAGUE #ELEAGUEMajor

TALKING TOPICS

Looking at the most popular topics of the weekend, the phrase “Grand Finals”, referring to the Grand Finals between Astralis and Virtus.Pro,  stood out as the largest reference in our topic cloud. The mentions by day over the month also show a peak around the time of these Grand Finals.

During the best of three games in the Grand Finals fans became engrossed in over 5 hours of live Counter-Strike:

OMG Comeback of The Year Astralis wins Atlanta Major Eleague 14-16 from 8-2.”

If there was a main theme to be drawn from the event it would be (extreme) tension, during the nail biting three-game match users shared this tension with commentary and in-the-moment support for their teams, evident from the sheer volume of memes shared within the final match.

During the final few minutes of the event fans found a reason to show pride in their favourite eSport as it was announced that the ELeague major broke 1,000,000 concurrent viewers on the English version of their Twitch channel.

This was the first time any single channel reached such a high number of concurrent viewers, serving not only as a monumental example of the legitimacy of eSports for fans but also as a sign of just how good the rounds of the match had been.  And fans commented in true nerd fashion:

“Can’t believe I missed 1,337mill viewers mark.”

This small glimpse at the ELeague Major serves as a great example of the ever-growing eSports industry.  We’ve chosen the analysis of social media traction and audience share of voice measurement to evidence its growth and importance.

The fans are passionate and vocal about big events; like traditional sports they show the deepest support for their favourite teams.  Most have a clear bond to favourite teams and are unanimous in their desire to watch some good matches together and try to let the world know how great eSports are.

It’s interesting to see from the outside that there is already a feeling of legacy in eSports, of the old greats returning to form with Fnatic, a roster who only disbanded in 2016. The sheer impact that this single announcement had on audience engagement around the ELeague Major event proves significant on many levels.

Developing an intricate understanding of eSports fans will be vital for the continued growth and health of the industry and the key operators within it.  As pioneers fusing academic principles with digital innovation, Disruptive Insight will be sure to keep a close eye on the fans of eSports and learn all we can about future industry growth. So what are your thoughts on eSports? Think you’ll be watching the next major? If you’d like to know more about what we do find us on Twitter @DI_insights.

This blog was powered by data from Brandwatch, good people who LOVE big data and social insights as much as we do.

 

© Disruptive Insight 2015.