A sport only needs three things to exist: competition, tournaments, and spectators–a direct catalyst to the rise to prominence of eSports.
Since the inception of video games, many proud individuals have angrily mashed controllers and ruined friendships over bragging rights and high scores. In 1980, Atari hosted a Space Invaders tournament where 10,000 people gathered to sit at computers and zap aliens. In 1988, Netrek–the first team-based internet game–was made, and players could forgo the trip to the arcade to find competition. Suddenly, they had opponents from the house down the street–or on the other side of the world.
Having combined years of ongoing advancements in hardware and connections with technology that allowed gamers to talk to one another, online gaming took over the world.The on-demand competition and interaction were primary contributors to the online gaming boom–but what accounts for the surge in eSports spectators? Well, viewing audiences were drawn to organized leagues, professional players, and streamed competitions they could view anywhere. Spectators can even attend events at offline venues.
For its rousing success, eSports owes a lot to Twitch; a platform where people from all over the world watch ‘streamers’ play video games. As the largest live streaming platform in the US,Twitch was purchased by Amazon for approximately $1 billion in 2014 to the dismay of some business analysts. Twitch’s 5 million viewers (who spend 106 minutes per day watching live gaming on the platform) rank higher than networks like CNN, making Amazon’s investment decision a success.
Over the next three years, it’s expected for the global eSports audience to double up to 600 million viewers. Despite gaming audiences’ preference for online viewing, traditional media companies are interested in eSports. ESPN and TBS invested in eSports leagues in 2016,salivating at the potential for expansion.
TBS saw some success with their first kick at the eSports can. DigiDay revealed that viewers consumed nearly 800 million minutes(13.3 million hours) of content, including both gaming and behind-the-scenes footage. While the 270,000 television viewers TBS generated were much less than traditional sports, it’s a considerable jump in eSport viewing.
eSports tournaments commonly fill major stadiums and draw traveling audiences and media. No more was this evident than in 2014, when 45,000 people attended Seoul’s Sangam stadium, to watch the League of Legends World Final, while 27 million others watched online. The 2017 League of Legends World Final, held in Beijing, had 60 million viewers–an increase of 17 million from the year prior.
With a Global Games Market Report predicting 2.3 billion players across the globe spending$137.9 billion on games by the end of 2018, the sky is the limit for eSports and gaming.
To add some more context–it took the NFL and NBA 50 years respectively to make significant commercial splashes. Whereas, it’s taken 46 years since the first gaming competition for eSports to make an impact. The evolution of eSports is still only in its infancy, and the genre is already making waves.