According to the analysts at Newzoo, eSports will grow by 43% this year to be worth $463 million. Gaming tournaments will be watched regularly by over 148 million fans, with another 144 million tuning in for the biggest international events. By 2020, global eSports revenue is predicted to exceed the $1 billion mark.
You might think you know about eSports. But did you know that…
1. Esports is older than you think
While competitive gaming rose to prominence in the late 1990s (thanks to wider internet connectivity), Atari is credited with holding the first video game competition back in 1980. The Space Invaders Tournament attracted over 10,000 players and was won by programmer Bill Heineman, who went on to found US video game developer Interplay.
2. It’s not all Dota 2, CS:GO and Starcraft
While modern eSports is largely focused around first person shooters and real-time strategy games, there is also an annual Classic Tetris World Championship and regular Pokémon World Championships. Competition has also proved fierce on the 1981 coin-op classic Donkey Kong, as players battled to claim the highest score. The current world record, a near-perfect 1,218,000 points, is held by Wes Copeland.
3. Esports is an official sport (or is it?)
Back in 2013, the US State Department recognised eSports players as professional athletes for the purpose of granting visas. In some eyes that makes it a sport. After all, pro gaming requires skill, talent, practice, dedication, focus and strategic thought. Much like Chess, which has already been recognised as a sport by the International Olympic Committee.
4. Sport or not, it’s BIG business
According to E-Sports Earnings, the most lucrative eSports competitions have paid out over $210 million in prize money. The top three games are: Dota 2 ($64,397,286.43 in prizes over 613 tournaments); League of Legends ($29,203,916.40-worth of prize money over 1,718 tournaments) and Starcraft II ($19,320,227.90 over 3,667 tournaments).
Not only is the UK set to get a 24-hour eSports telly channel called Ginx eSports TV, it has a dedicated eSports home in the Gfinity Arena in London. This 600-seat venue might be small potatoes compared to the 18,118-capacity Staples Center in Los Angeles, which will host the League of Legends World Championship 2016 finals. But it’s a start.
5. People love to watch other people play
According to Newzoo, eSports fans watched over 800 million hours of gaming action on Twitch in the past 10 months (August 2015 – May 2016).
“Viewership in October was driven by the month-long League of Legends World Championship,” says the Newzoo report, “and the ESL One New York and MLG World Finals Dota 2 tournaments. The second biggest month was August with 110.5 million esports hours watched. This was driven by major events of the top three eSports franchises. Namely, the summer playoffs for League of Legends’ regional leagues, the final of The International 5 (Dota 2), and ESL One Cologne (CS:GO).”
6. Three countries dominate the rankings
The stats on the E-Sports Earnings website show that the list of highest earnings by country puts the USA first ($37 million), China second ($34 million) and South Korea third ($34 million). The UK is down in 11th place ($4 million).
7. You can make a good living through eSports
If you’re good enough, you can make it rich as a pro gamer through prize money and sponsorship, plus Twitch and YouTube revenue. And if you can’t make it as a gamer, you can always be a pro gaming head coach, a team performance coach or even a commentator/shoutcaster.
8. Dota 2 has made gaming millionaires
The Dota 2 event, The International 2015, saw a prize pool of over $18 million. The five-player Evil Geniuses team walked away with $6,634,661 (£4,234,759) for winning it.
9. But there’s also a dark side to it
Like any modern sport, eSports can fall foul of corruption. Over the years, it has faced doping scandals, accusations of cheating and match fixing, either through intentional forfeits or through malicious DDOS attacks designed to disconnect players. There are even dedicated eSports betting sites where you can bet everything from real money to in-game items.
10. You ain’t seen nothing yet!
At E3 2016, we saw a definite focus on eSports. Id Software announced Quake Champions, which is being built for competitive play. Ditto the DC superhero fighting game Injustice 2, while new games like Battlefield 1, Titanfall 2 and Blizzard’s Overwatch have the potential to become popular eSport titles.
EA also confirmed its commitment to eSports with a $1 million prize fund for its Madden NFL 17 Championship Series. While Activision’s Call of Duty World League even later this year boasts $2 million in prizes. Elsewhere, football clubs like Manchester United and Valencia are looking to establish up their own gaming teams, while big brands are looking to invest, hoping to reach the lucrative 18-34 demographic.