The State of Esports in Argentina – The Esports Observer

Esports is gaining traction in Argentina, with sponsorships and partnerships on the books in the country with global brands such as Logitech, which sponsors the 9z Team, and Cooler Master, which sponsors San Lorenzo Esports (CASLA Esports). 

Due to language, culture, population, and even the current level of investments in South America, the continent’s market is often divided between “Brazil” and “Latin America” to differentiate between the two very different communities. Argentina, then, is part of the Spanish-speaking block with countries such as Chile, Peru, and Colombia. This does not stop LATAM tournaments including Brazilian teams or Brazilian championships including Argentinian teams, but even Riot Games has specific leagues for each block: the Brazilian League of Legends Championship (CBLOL) and the Latin America League (Liga Latinoamérica, LLA). Argentinian teams also play tournaments organized by the Spanish esports promotion company LVP, which has invested in the local market.

Lucas Benaim is a local esports journalist who works at Infobae, one of the main news websites in the country. He tells The Esports Observer that Argentina is now “seeing a lot of production companies willing to work on esports, making content, building programs, building a lot of stuff. That is a good sign, showing that people are paying attention to esports, and we are also seeing all those big sponsors that are coming in.”

Benaim also pointed out that demographics is what has grabbed the attention of these producers and brands: “They are young adults and teenagers that do not watch much TV. They don’t watch the news, they don’t listen to the radio, maybe they don’t even watch sports, they only watch esports. Non-endemic brands are now jumping into esports because they want to connect with this whole new demographic.”

The main game responsible for kicking off the esports in the country was Valve’s previous versions of Counter-Strike. To date, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) is still tier-1 in Argentinian esports. “Counter-Strike has been a part of the lives of almost every Argentinian adult male nowadays. It is kinda like soccer: maybe you are not good at it, but surely you got to play it at least once,” notes Benaim, who says it is mostly due to the cyber cafe culture that existed in Argentina that granted access to PC gaming for a cheap price.

Indeed, the preference of Argentinian gamers is still focused on first-person shooters like CS:GO. According to Newzoo, 49.8% of the PC market share mainly plays shooters, followed by battle royale games at 36.9%. Benaim sees potential for Garena’s battle royale game Free Fire to significantly gain terrain in the upcoming months and years as mobile games are becoming more popular.

Juan Cyterszpiler, the CEO of the esports organization Isurus, which was born in Argentina but has since expanded to the whole of Latin America and has recently announced its entrance in the North American market, mentions the size of the Argentinian scene but also the current challenge it faces: “Argentina is currently the second biggest community online in South America [in LATAM it is the third, after Brazil and Mexico, respectively], so it is a huge market, profitable, but the problem is that Argentina still has a lack of investments.”

Cyterszpiler points out that, although the market is rapidly expanding, investors are still insecure due to cultural issues. “Sometimes Argentinians think, ‘Regulations first, investments later.’” For Benaim, it is just a matter of time before the scene becomes fully professionalized. The entrance of some of the main traditional sports clubs of the country such as River Plate and Boca Juniors into esports shows that esports has reached a new level in the country.

Barbara Bertani, marketing director and founder of NCN Esports Management (the company currently managing Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro’s initiative in esports), says that Argentina “has the requirement of being a more professional scene every day, developing corporate processes within organizations, having teams with higher performance that work in parallel in the mindset area, creating quality tournaments and leagues and working for international recognition.” 

Both Benaim and Cyterszpiler agree that, although esports had steady growth over the past few years, it was during 2020 in midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that esports saw a boost in Brazil. Cyterszpiler mentions that he had “more business meetings in the last three months of 2020 than in the whole year of 2019.” Before the pandemic in 2019, Newzoo estimated the esports audience at 3.76M. 

Bertani also mentions this period as instrumental for the growth of the market: “The global situation boosted the consumption of esports and video games, which allowed the sector to leave the niche and move into the mainstream of entertainment, global actions carried out during the quarantine among famous athletes, and streamers of global reach impacted our country by placing esports in front of everyone.” It was during the COVID-19 isolation that the soccer star Sergio Agüero, for example, founded his own organization, KRÜ Esports. 

Another fact mentioned by all the sources that brought esports to light in mainstream media happened in 2019 when then 13-year-old Argentinian Fortnite player Thiago “k1ng” Lapp raised nearly $1M USD in prize money. That story caught the attention of major media outlets and  was even featured on Argentinian TV. Lapp is currently signed as a player for FaZe Clan.

Being one of the brands investing in the Argentinian scene, Cooler Master spoke to TEO through its regional manager Ariel Ignacio Mai regarding the development of esports in the country, also referencing the COVID-19 crisis as a pushing factor: “As in all sports, Argentina has a very good development of professional players thanks to the fact that there is a very interesting amateur scene within each esport. In addition, the global situation that we have had to live through in 2020 helped Argentina accelerate the professionalization processes by placing it today among the three most developed countries in esports in the region.”

Mai also offered some advice to brands that would like to enter the Argentinian esports market: “Get to know the actors of the ecosystem to determine the value proposition that it is going to contribute. Understand which communication vehicles are protagonists and lead the market to analyze sponsoring or working as partners. Get to know the type of audience you will have to work with to develop an excellent inbound marketing and omnichannel marketing strategy for long-term planning, since Argentina is a country that is currently migrating from the niche to the mainstream.”

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