The Rise of eSports has continuously skyrocketed, especially in the past couple years. It is everywhere: Streamers, Youtube, Twitch…always accessible to anyone wanting to watch some pros duke it out. I had the chance to go to the League of Legends NALCS Finals in 2017, and the ambiance, hype, and crowd was much more enthusiastic then when going to a hockey, soccer, or football game. It was intoxicating: you get swept up in everyone else’s excitement, kind of like mob mentality, but in a good way. But, are eSports just another fad, born just to be swept away in a couple years when they are not as popular anymore? Well, I wouldn’t worry too much about that.
What The Heck Are eSports?
Electronic Sports, or eSports, are sports in which competitive players (Gamers) compete in front of a live audience for a) a winning trophy, and b) a cash pot. There is a lot of speculation with “real” sports enthusiasts that state that sitting in front of a computer isn’t a “sport,” however the similarities between eSports and other sports are noticeable. A Sport is defined as “ an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment. “ Both eSports and other “sports” involve competing against others for entertainment, involve large skill requirements, albeit different skills. However, the Physical exertion is the key here, and the reason so many “true sports fans” discredit eSports from ever being a thing. However, fishing is a sport and doesn’t require much physical exertion compared to Hockey, Soccer, Football, and the likes. Archery is a sport that requires little exertion, same with Target Sports. All of these don’t fit into the “Exert yourself physically until you can’t breathe” category, but we define them as sports anyway, so why should eSports be any different? The amount of dexterity, agility, and planning put into these games is the same or more than that of other sports, so why WOULDN’T eSports qualify as a sport?
eSport popularity has continuously risen in the past few years. The total global eSport audience has almost tripled from 2012 to 2018; 134 million in 2012 to 395 million in 2018, according to Statista.
To give you some PROspective (see what I did there?), according to Neilsen data, just over 103 million fans watched Superbowl LII (2018), which less than 1/3 the eSport audience. However, during the 2018 soccer World Cup, 3.5 Billion viewers tuned in to some sort of the World Cup in Russia, nearly 10 times that of eSports. This means that eSports still has room to grow!
The winnings of eSport champions are no laughing matter; the International 8, a Dota 2 tournament in 2018, has a crowd funded prize pool of 25.5 million dollars, where the winners took home 11.2 million. More PROspective here – each player, as part of the winning team of Superbowl LII took home 118,000 from the event. Compare this to roughly 2.24 million per player (based on 5 players/team) for this International 8 tournament, and the Superbowl earnings seem like petty cash. Below, you can see earnings from the top 10 eSports events in the past 5 years:
What the Future Holds
From this data, it only looks positive for eSports. As they are maturing as a trend, eSports will gain more and more popularity from fans, media, and marketing. There are even some eSports enthusiasts placing odds and bets on who will win, what the split will be, who will get first blood, length of game…If it’s part of the game, people are sure to bet on it. This is common to most big sports events (Stanley Cup Playoffs, Superbowl, etc.), which shows how much eSports have grown in such a short time to be as competitive or more than sports that have been around for quite some time. As eSports get bigger, we can expect leagues to expand, multiply, and increase in popularity. eSports can be watched anytime; there seems to be multiple events happening at once, and even when there aren’t events, you can just go to twitch and watch your favorite online streamer in your spare time. I am excited to see where eSports will be in the next few years.