Gaming can be associated with a lot of things today. Having come a long way from its humble beginnings in the 80s, gaming today is a core part of pop culture. The interactive medium does not only co-exist with other forms of art and entertainment but complements them by adding value through lending characters, stories, and franchises that transition to movies, TV series, music, and theatre to name a few. The culture surrounding games has matured too, giving way to numerous events that include gamers from all facets of life. One of the prime examples to showcase this culture is eSports. Born out of the inherently competitive nature of video games, eSports today is competitive video gaming that rivals any other form of sports. They take place on grand stages and are streamed to millions of fans worldwide, with opening events that sometimes rival the best of ceremonies. But eSports, like the videogames industry itself, had a humble beginning while seeing a steady rise in momentum over its existence and has grown exponentially in popularity in recent years. So, how did we get here? And what does the future look like for this multi-billion dollar industry? Let’s take a closer look.
Origin of eSports:
The term eSports refers to the practice of playing video games competitively, either individually or as part of a team, with a focus on strategic thinking, skill, and coordination. These are the fundamentals of the sport, to which parallels can, of course, be drawn with any kind of sport.
The origins of eSports can be traced back to the 1980s. This was a time when video game enthusiasts began holding small-scale competitions and tournaments. The first major eSports event was the Space Invaders Championship held in 1980. The event attracted over 10,000 participants, which was unheard of for a videogame-related event at the time. In the 1990s, LAN parties became popular, where gamers would bring their computers together to play games like Doom and Quake. It was at these LAN parties where the first professional gamers emerged, and eSports, as we know it today, began to take shape. Over the years, eSports continued to grow, with competitions and tournaments becoming more organized and attracting larger audiences.
The 1990s also saw the emergence of professional eSports teams and organizations, with players receiving salaries and sponsorships. eSports events began to be broadcast on television and online, further increasing the visibility and popularity of the industry. More genres of games were now part of eSports. One of the first major international eSports tournaments was the Red Annihilation Quake Tournament, which arguably paved the way for the global industry we see today. With more visibility and the advent of the internet, moments like the infamous Evo Moment 37 from Evo 2004 among many others boosted the popularity of the sport among gamers.
The Current State of eSports:
eSports today is a global phenomenon and has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, with professional players and teams competing in a variety of games, including CS:GO, League of Legends, Dota 2, Overwatch, and Fortnite to name a few. eSports events attract millions of viewers online and in-person, with tournaments offering massive prize pools for the winners. The industry has also attracted significant investment from traditional sports teams and organizations, with many creating their own eSports teams and sponsoring events.
The popularity of the sport has led to the development of dedicated eSports arenas, where fans can watch competitions live, and players can compete in a professional environment. The industry has also created job opportunities in areas such as game development, coaching, and management, as well as content creation and broadcasting.
The Economy of eSports:
The economy of eSports is complex, with multiple sources of revenue and a variety of stakeholders. Sponsorships, advertising, and media rights are the primary sources of revenue for eSports, with major companies like Coca-Cola, Intel, and Red Bull investing in eSports to reach a younger audience. Merchandise sales and ticket sales also contribute to this economy. eSports teams and players are also important stakeholders in the economy of eSports. Professional teams like Team Liquid and Cloud9 have multi-million dollar valuations, and players can earn hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in prize money and endorsements. eSports players also have the potential to earn money from streaming on platforms like Twitch, where they can monetize their gameplay and interact with their fans.
The Future of eSports:
The eSports industry is expected to continue its growth trajectory over the next few years and beyond. The 2020 pandemic had accelerated the growth of eSports, with many traditional sports events being canceled or postponed, leading to a surge in online viewership. eSports is also an Olympic event at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, with games like Gran Tourismo, Just Dance, and Tennis Clash. While the list of games does not feature staples like CS:Go and Dota 2, we can hope for these titles to be a part of the Olympics in the future.
The sport is also likely to continue to expand beyond its current core audience of young males, with more women and older adults getting involved in the industry, as these demographics are now actively playing games on a regular basis more than ever before.
eSports has come a long way from its humble beginnings to become a multi-billion dollar industry today. The industry has grown exponentially in recent years, attracting significant investment and creating job opportunities. The ever-present advancements in technology, a growing audience, and a global stage like the Olympics are expected to drive even more significant growth in the industry. The future of eSports looks bright indeed!