Bank Holiday Insomnia

Have you heard of Generation Z? Last weekend, I spent eight hours with them at Insomnia58, at Birmingham’s NEC. I was accompanying my teenage son and feeling out of my depth. Ever turned up to an event featuring celebrities you weren’t even aware of? It’s like finding a universe you didn’t even know existed. 

A die, playing card, gambling chips and a keyboard

My son is a member of Generation Z. He doesn’t follow mainstream media (although Netflix is probably commonplace now) and spends much more time socialising online than on the streets.

Insomnia is the UK’s biggest gaming show, taking place several times a year by gaming host and online community Multiplay, and video game retailer Game. I expected to be surrounded by overweight nerds with greasy hair. I couldn’t be more wrong (well, there were a few stereotypes) – these were mainly ordinary kids buying top-quality merchandise and following a new breed of underground celebrities you won’t find gracing Strictly this autumn.

I found myself queuing for the autographs of gaming royalty, including Syndicate, Mini Ladd, Vanos and Terroriser. These guys have millions of followers and viewers on YouTube. They are young, good-looking and business savvy. They have logos and official merchandise. They are the new pop stars. For Insomnia60 next year, the organisers are tying up with Island Records to bring pop acts to the festival.

So why is this relevant to middle-aged Luddites like me, who don’t even remember Tetris fondly?

We're always looking to invest in industry disruptors, and we believe e-gaming is the next one that will attack the incumbents in the technology and media space. A look around the NEC told me that Dell and HP (not there) are no longer cool, while the likes of Logitech, Overclockers UK and Nvidia are. While Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo dominate the console market, we believe the most exciting area is the companies providing the content.

In 2015, Hollywood’s box office revenue hit $38bn, helped in large part by the extraordinary buzz around the Star Wars and Jurassic Park reboots. The same year, the global games market brought in $91.8bn.

We think this is the tip of an iceberg. Advertising, movie rights and merchandising are still in their infancy. This could be an incredible opportunity. We can imagine Halo, Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto movie franchises taking on current hit machines Marvel and DC. Expect to hear more about Activision Blizzard, Riot Games and Valve.

ESports is also growing at a remarkable pace. About 36 million unique viewers watched the world championships of online multiplayer sensation League of Legends. The final between SK Telecom T1 and the KOO Tigers was watched by 14 million viewers at its peak. In May, Warner’s TBS cable network launched ELeague, a multi-week eSports tournament with professional commentators and ticker displays.  

However, we are being cautious: the market can be fickle, and led by fashion and fads, so we are looking at investing in a basket of stocks that are listed around the world to gain exposure to this theme.

By the way, I hate gaming and never even played Space Invaders.

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