While many think esports is a fairly new sport, this could not be further from the truth. The first esports event dates back to 1972 when Stamford University held a gaming competition for Spacewar!. From these humble beginnings has risen a giant industry that is bringing in more attention than ever before. This industry is now poised to become a billion-dollar one and competitive gamers could not be happier.
History of Esports
As briefly mentioned above, esports events have been taking place for decades. In the beginning, the industry was all about organized events that brought amateur gamers together and pitted them against one another.
In the early 2000s, the focus of this gaming industry took a slight shift, bringing in professional gamers with live televised events and crowds of spectators. When professionals were brought into the mix, this led to a surge of interest, putting esports in a position to quickly become a billion-dollar industry.
By 2010, esports was becoming a popular sport, leading game developers to even create games based on the esports subculture that now had a strong foundation in the gaming community. The most common types of games for esports include MOBA, FPS, and RTS.
Many have been shocked to discover just how quickly esports has evolved and grown in dynamics, but there are some solid reasons for its success. As with any industry, success can only happen with great talent.
Reasons Esports Could Become a Billion-Dollar Industry
Current estimates from research firms suggest esports could be valued at $1.6 billion by 2021. Many people believe esports really took off in 2018 and has been unstoppable since then. There are multiple reasons esports has grown with such magnitude.
- Celebrities have been taking notice of esports for some years, but this has recently increased. Michael Jordan joined the ownership team of Team Liquid in 2018 and Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, paid $20-million to purchase the Boston team for Blizzard’s Overwatch League. With more celebrity investors getting involved, the industry is growing like never before.
- Many sponsors are now backing esports and it is estimated the industry will receive around 60% of its income from sponsors alone. These are huge numbers that suggest just how powerful and influential this industry has become.
- In 2018, non-gaming advertisers joined the mix of sponsors, bringing esports to an even higher level. There have been auto manufacturers and even telecom companies in the mix and the variety is expanding.
- The industry now is working towards launching long-term partnerships which are expected to bring the esports market to a more sustainable level.
- Games like Overwatch are now setting up leagues in esports, and this is bringing in greater revenue. Overwatch was the first game to set up a professional league that included city-based teams. Activision Blizzard has now become a billion-dollar franchise and having them on board in the esports arena has brought great attention to the industry.
- Esports has been able to reach almost as many viewers as the Super Bowl, making it a competitive niche that begs attention from game developers and a wide range of sponsors. The League of Legends World Championships drew 100-million unique viewers with the Super Bowl bringing in 103-million.
- ESPN and the NFL have recently become highly interested in esports, propelling the industry even higher. Esports has even become a part of the Olympics, further concreting its success.
- Esports has also grown by helping players launch very lucrative careers. Not only do the players earn a salary, but they also compete for large pools of money. With these players producing a lot of content, Twitch and other streaming platforms have also gotten in on the action. Some of the top-grossing players include the following.
- Player Chen Wei Lin makes around $250,000 a year.
- Lee Byung Ryul makes around $150,000 a year.
- Frank Zhang makes around $151,000 a year.
- With the Internet and many different viewing platforms, esports competitions have a large following all over the world, quickly making it a global industry that continues to expand its reach. Unlike some other sports, esports has a universal appeal because there are many types of competitive games being brought to the arena.
- Esports has already claimed a larger audience than Major League Baseball which is quite a feat. It will be interesting to see how the industry continues to grow into the year 2020 and beyond. Research firms are reporting the sky is the limit for this growing industry.
- One Goldman Sachs analyst has reported esports is expected to generate 276 competitive gamers by the year 2022.
- Surprisingly, esports has even brought in spectators who are not gamers themselves. Some people are simply drawn to the competition by the professional gamers and the unique personalities they bring to the industry.
- Activision has signed a two-year deal with Twitch that is costing them $90-million. This agreement requires Twitch to distribute the Overwatch League to North American viewers.
Here’s Some Top Games for Esports
While any game has the potential to become an esports title, there are some that are more conducive to the industry. The following are some of the biggest game titles in esports and a big reason this industry is poised to become a billion-dollar one and beyond.
- League of Legends is arguably one of the biggest games in esports competitions. In the 2017 competition, 24 teams competed for a prize of $ 4,596,591. League of Legends continues to bring in some of the biggest numbers in the industry.
- Defense of the Ancients 2 (DOTA 2) is another popular gaming franchise in esports. In 2017, the record was broken for the largest prize pool in the history of esports. The prize pool ended up being $ 24,787,916.
- Call of Duty World League hosts new events every month. One prize pool was $1.5 million. These prize pools are likely to grow in value as the sport continues to bring in more sponsors and bigger names in the gaming world.
Top Teams in the Industry
Just like with athletic sports, esports teams have owners and they draw up contracts for teams and individual players. The following are some of the top teams in esports.
- Team Liquid has participated in over 1,155 tournaments and has won $18,915,677.56 as of 2018.
- Evil Geniuses has participated in over 692 tournaments and won $17,074,932.79 as of 2018.
- Newbee has participated in over 117 tournaments and won $12,439,368.12 as of 2018.
- LGD Gaming has participated in over 120 tournaments and won $10,317,457.31 as of 2018.
- Fnatic has participated in over 120 tournaments and has won $10,248,170.27 as of 2018.
It is no wonder celebrities like Michael Jordan are getting in on the esports action when teams like Team Liquid are bringing in such large earnings. Esports is now poised to be on the same level as many athletic sports and it could one day surpass them.
Is Esports Really a Sport?
This is a question that begs to be answered, but it is often difficult to find the answer. There has been an ongoing debate for several years with many arguing both sides. At first, mainstream media outlets argued that esports was not on the same level as athletic sports, but minds are certainly changing.
With esports now a part of huge sporting events like the Olympics, it is clear to see that it is taking its rightful place among athletic sports of all types. It will continue to be elevated among gamers, and with non-gaming fans becoming a part of the mix, it will be interesting to see how things progress.
Some would argue it takes as much training or even more for a gamer to prepare for an esports competition. Gamers spend hours upon hours honing their skills and preparing for the next league competition. Some travel all over the country and even around the world for these events. While esports is not as physically demanding as athletic sports, it can still be demanding in other ways.
The Shoutcasters Bring on More Excitement
A big part of what has made esports so popular is the shoutcasters (esports commentators). The role of the shoutcaster is to speak over the action and entertain the spectators just as a sports commentator would in a football game.
Shoutcasters greatly up the excitement levels of esports matches. Sometimes, stadiums are packed with spectators and these commentators add a lot of fun and thrills to games. Some shoutcasters have their own loyal fans who follow them from event to event.
There are two types of shoutcasters in esports. Each type brings their own fun and thrills to the industry.
Play-by-Play – These shoutcasters provide a play-by-play commentary which results in an ongoing commentary throughout the gameplay. These shoutcasters must be charismatic with big personalities.
Color Casters – These shoutcasters provide commentary after major moments in the game. They also add enrichment to the game without constantly speaking over the action.
Many people start off as broadcasters in other sports and then find themselves immersed in the gaming world. There is not as much competition with esports commentators so the playing floor is wide open for success.
What’s the Future of Esports?
As we already discussed, esports is poised to be valued at $1.6 billion by 2021. It is clear the industry is growing and fans of esports have a lot to look forward to over the coming years as it continues expanding. There are five main factors that will have an influence on the future of esports.
- The level of diversity will continue to grow in esports and this will be crucial for bringing in more fans. Right now, the vast majority of esports games are PC titles, but new game titles are being added and it looks like the playing field is becoming more diversified.
- Another important aspect of the future of esports is going to be the expansion of leagues to many more countries. Most marketing is spent on the local level and things need to go more global for league representation.
- The regulation of competitions is also important because esports is no longer a grassroots kind of thing. There is now more at stake than ever before so regulations will need to be put in place.
- Ownership of media rights is also crucial for the future of esports. Right now, there is a lot of confusion when it comes to who owns footage from esports events.
- It is also important traditional media somehow aligns itself with esports so the two can work harmoniously together. As we discussed above, ESPN has shown more interest in the esports industry and this will likely usher in greater respect among media outlets.
There is no doubt esports will continue to grow and expand. We have already seen tons of growth since the early 2000s and exponential growth since 2018. Companies are now looking to sponsor esports leagues just like they would athletic sports teams.
It will be interesting to see how the industry continues to evolve and it is clear there will be changes taking place as time goes on.
While esports has gained popularity over the last few years, the industry began many years ago, in 1972 to be exact. Who would have thought a billion-dollar industry would be formed from such a humble beginning?
Many investors are getting in on the action of esports, bringing more attention to this once grassroots effort. Because the industry has spread like wildfire, industry leaders are sometimes finding it problematic to keep up with the demands.
As more regulations are put in place and a clearer direction sought, the sky is the limit for the esports industry and everyone involved. Esports will continue to be viable for many years to come but is likely to see changes as it evolves to meet the demands of an ever-changing gaming landscape. For now, esports is on top of the game and making more money than ever before.