The esports industry has enjoyed tremendous growth over the past few years and many gamers have grown rich beyond their wildest dreams. Tales of teenagers winning life-changing sums through their exploits with a mouse and keyboard have permeated the mainstream media, but competitive gaming still remains something of a mystery to many people. This guide will help you make sense of the trend.
Why is competitive gaming suddenly becoming so popular?
The first esports tournament took place at Stanford University in 1972. Competitors gathered around the PDP-10 computer at the university’s Artificial Intelligence Lab in Los Altos, California, to take part in the inaugural Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics. A year’s subscription to Rolling Stone magazine was the prize, while free beer helped attract participants.
Competitive gaming tournaments grew in popularity in the ensuing decades – Atari’s Space Invaders Championship featured 10,000 gamers – but esports were always constrained by technological restraints. The global rollout of high-speed broadband changed all that. It allowed video gamers across the world to go online and play against one another, sparking an explosion in the popularity of esports.
Now gaming fans can live stream tournaments 24/7, 365 days a year, meaning there is always something exciting to watch. Technological developments mean the games are improving with each passing year, while the competitive scene is becoming increasingly professional and organised, providing a slick, thrilling viewing experience.
There are billions of video gamers across the globe, and they watch esports to be entertained, to witness dazzling feats of brilliance that only the pros could pull off, to learn tips and tricks from the world’s best gamers and to socialize with their peers.
What are the biggest games on the esports scene?
The biggest games on the esports scene are League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2. LoL and Dota 2 are multiplayer online battle arena games, in which two teams of five try to destroy the enemy’s base while protecting their own structure. Each player controls a specific hero, whose skills and abilities develop as the game goes on. LoL has more fans than any other esport, while Dota 2 has the most lucrative tournaments. The world’s highest earning esports stars play Dota 2.
CS:GO is a first-person shooter. Like LoL and Dota 2, it is fun and accessible, but it has a very high skill ceiling, allowing pros to develop their skills over a number of years. Other big esports include Overwatch, Hearthstone, Fortnite, Rocket League, PUBG, Rainbow 6 Siege, Rocket and FIFA. Check out Unikrn.com to see a list of all the most popular esports and learn more about them.
How much is the industry worth?
Industry analysts at NewZoo valued the esports market at $1.1 billion in 2019, representing year-on-year growth of 26.7%. That includes sponsorship, advertising and media rights. Major brands like Intel, MasterCard and Coca-Cola are among the big brands channelling their advertising budgets towards the competitive gaming scene.
That figure sounds impressive, but it does not include the billions of dollars that the publishers of these games make each year. Fortnite made $1.8 billion last year and LoL made $1.5 billion, which is very impressive for a game that was released in 2009.
Esports is a major factor in that strong commercial performance. The world’s leading gamers are multimillionaires thanks to their exploits. Last year’s biggest Dota 2 tournament, The International, carried prize money of $34.3 million. The Fortnite World Cup offered $30 million. One 16-year-old from Pennsylvania won $3 million in a day’s work by winning the solo tournament there.
How do I watch esports?
Esports tournaments are increasingly being shown on TV by mainstream broadcasters. ESPN, Disney and ABC all bought the rights to screen the first season of the Overwatch League. StarCraft II is often shown at peak times in South Korea.
However, the most common way to watch esports is by streaming the action on your computer or mobile device. Twitch has been the most popular platform ever since it launched in 2011, but it now has a serious rival in YouTube Gaming, which recently spent big to secure the exclusive rights for Overwatch, Call of Duty and Hearthstone.
Microsoft’s Mixer platform is also gaining traction. It recently paid the most popular streamer on Twitch, Ninja, a reported fee of anywhere between $50 million and $100 million to defect to its platform. Facebook is also trying to muscle into this space, and the battle for supremacy will be intriguing.
What does the future hold for competitive gaming?
The industry will only continue to grow. Newzoo forecasts that sponsorship, advertising and media rights will hit $1.8 billion by 2022. Video gaming is expected to grow from a $150 billion industry today to $300 billion by 2025, with esports driving that growth.
One day it will become more popular than traditional sports. That might sound ambitious, but you must remember that esports are outrageously popular among the younger generations. Tech-savvy youngsters idolise these elite gamers and often find their exploits more entertaining than those of LeBron James, Lionel Messi or Serena Williams.
Traditional sports are also static, whereas esports grow bolder, more exciting, more diverse and more immersive each year by remaining at the forefront of technological innovation. AR and VR will change the world as we know it, and video gaming will be at the forefront of that trend. It will transform not only the gaming experience but the viewing experience too. Gamers will become richer, the global fan base will soar and the esports juggernaut will continue to gather steam.