By Neil Bazaj & Alex Winning | April 5, 2019
Soccer, basketball, and football are just three sports that are a part of the enormous world of athletics. However, in the past few years, a game has emerged creating an industry of its own to compete with the likes of soccer, basketball and football: Esports. Esports has seen a rapid rise for the past few years and is now becoming a major event worldwide. It has begun to draw the attention and money of major celebrities, including Drake, Mark Cuban, and Magic Johnson. Since Esports started becoming popular with StarCraft 2 in 2010, it has transformed into a global phenomenon with people competing from all around the world.
Despite being one of the fastest growing industries in the world, many people still don’t even know what “Esports” means. Esports is short for electronic sports, or in other words, professional competitive gaming. It can range from small tournaments across the country, all the way to an event going on at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Esports has a wide range of levels in terms of competitiveness, but the one common factor is people facing off in video games and getting paid to do it. Esports has accumulated most of its popularity from the leagues that take place in popular video games such as League of Legends, Dota 2, and Rocket League. These leagues work similarly to all the major sports like football, basketball, etc. There are teams that face each other, and the best teams make it to a playoff bracket that decides who the best team that year is. Prizes for these leagues can range up to $11 million dollars.
Esports are beginning to try and create an atmosphere at their events that is similar to live football or basketball. At the ESL (Electronic Sports League) One Dota 2 tournament at Commerzbank-Arena in Frankfurt, Germany, the attendance was an astounding 52,000 people where they had to accommodate people by placing seats on the field as the stadium only has a capacity of 51,500. Esports is also adding onto the ways in which it generates revenue. They are doing this by including a wider array of merchandise to fans to purchase, including merchandise like bags, bracelets, and shirts so that Esports fans have another way to show their support for their favorite teams. With the growth of electronic sports itself, as well as the new ways the industry will make money, Esports is estimated to make 1.5 billion dollars by 2020. The fanbase behind Esports is expanding at an unprecedented pace and will soon be able to compete with the fanbases of other major sports.
When it comes to broadcasting the actual competitions, a majority of game companies choose to stream their events through Twitch. Twitch is a live streaming service that is mostly used by individual video game players that play in front of a live audience, but Twitch has also become the go-to platform for most major Esports competitions. Twitch has 15 million active daily users, and in 2017 had 355 billion total minutes streamed. Twitch is a free service and can be accessed by any device, including phones, computers, and even video game consoles. Games like League of Legends, Dota 2, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive all use Twitch to broadcast their largest leagues and tournaments. These games will generate around 200,000 concurrent viewers per week while in season. Twitch has even grown to the point where they have gotten the rights to stream NFL Thursday Night Football.
According to BBC, the organizers for the 2024 Olympics in Paris have been in discussion with the Olympic Committee about making esports an event in future games. Whether Esports belong in large sporting events like these has been a heavily debated topic for a while now after it was announced that Esports will be a medal event in the 2022 Asian Games. It’s realistic that Esports could make their way into the Olympics in some fashion, but probably not as a medal event. The 2024 Paris organizers are hoping to make it a “demonstration sport” to help gain more viewers. However, members of the committee are concerned with the violent nature of most competitive video games. Even so, there are some popular competitive games that aren’t violent, such as Rocket League (car soccer). Esports are very big in Paris, and the committee believes there would be a large number of fans interested in attending a video game competition that’s part of the Olympics.
Recently, Esports are being used to show the army in a different light. The goal of this is to take away the negative and harmful connotations that accompany the army and bring them closer with younger people in the community. Future plans for this hope to include an army Esports team that travels to different colleges across the country to compete against college teams. The hope is that people will start to view the army differently and will result in the army meeting their recruitment target as they fell short of it this past year by 6,500 recruits. As army Command spokeswoman Kelli Bland stated, “Esports isn’t just being used for entertainment purposes, but now helping to fix the growing disconnect between our community and society.”
Many people who were originally unaware of Esports found out about the growing industry from seeing it on their favorite sports channel. Certain video game competitions have periodically made their way onto one of the ESPN channels, and sports fans have taken notice. A large amount of backlash has been generated as certain people believe that video games have no place on ESPN. In 2016, a college Heroes of the Storm tournament called “Heroes of the Dorm” was aired on ESPN2, and people all over Twitter were freaking out, wondering why ESPN was showing them video games instead of the basketball, football, or whatever they went there for. Whether or not video games are considered a sport, ESPN had a valid reason to air the tournament. The growing interest in Esports is unmatched by anything else ESPN could have been showing, and they were just getting on board with the trend. Video games may not have the fan base of basketball, football, or baseball just yet, but they are on their way to being on that level.
In a world that is constantly changing, Esports has made a name for itself, attracting more and more viewers and making a greater amount of money each and every year. Esports is continuously changing to become more appealing to the public, and there are still many more ways in which it can grow. Esports has established its own industry. and there is no telling how high it can go. All we can do is wait and see.