A New Challenger Has Arrived
Wherever you are in the world, certain elements bring all of us together. An event, a shared interest that transcends across boundaries and brings people together. Without a doubt, sports ranks high on that list. Whether football, golf, tennis, or cricket, the world of sports calls on the viewer’s attention and monetizes that attention. People invest their emotions and entire lives in support of these sports.
The higher the emotional investment worldwide, the greater the eyes; the higher the profit margins. An entertainer’s value is in the amount of attention and cheers he or she draws. However, if a person hasn’t been living on the moon for the past half a century, they would recognize the slow yet inevitable shift to a different kind of medium altogether. Electronic sports, or more commonly referred to as Esports, pits the best of the best gamers from a variety of games and genres in a competitive environment for cash prizes.
Quick Scope Into The World of Esports
The most popular of these genres, both for casual and competitive players, are the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena Video (MOBA’s), First Person Shooter Multiplayer Games (FPS), Real-Time Strategy (RTS) and Fighting games. DOTA 2, League Of Legends (LOL), Tekken, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) and Overwatch, are just some examples of these games.
It’s peculiar to note with the lockdowns due to COVID – 19; eyes have turned away from traditional sports towards Esports. Not only eyes, but wallets have also fixed in on this avenue. Since most sports arenas and casinos have shut down, people have resorted to betting on Esports games, such as dota 2 betting and StarCraft II. Esports’ revenue for 2020 is at an estimated 1.1 billion. It’s not a surprise, especially when you factor in that most professional athletes earn a majority of their wealth through brand endorsements via social media. The greater the number of following, the higher brands will spend to acquire a moment of that attention.
Just as with traditional sports, there are teams and individuals with legions of followers. Each with their dedicated fan base, bringing in the money through tournaments and individual efforts. In 2018, Forbes valued professional eSports team, Cloud, nine at $310 million, with 92 players spanning over a variety of games. The third highest valued squad, Team Liquid, have a player earning $5.1 million, the sixth-highest as of 2020.
Searching Through The Memory Card
Despite what may seem like the obvious, Esports isn’t a new craze at all. It has been around since the early ’80s and became increasingly popular in the late ’90s. Around this time, a groundbreaking FPS, ‘Quake,’ entered the market, and the engines started to roll. The game immediately gained popularity for its innovation and unique style.
With the availability of computers, gaming arcades, and the new craze of ‘Quake’ fueling the fires for the first professional esports tournament, albeit the term ‘esports’ hadn’t made an appearance. The 1997 Red Annihilation Tournament saw around 200 participants enter to fight for the grand prize, Quake’s Lead Developer John Carmack’s Ferrari. Such was the intensity of this new wave that, within a couple of weeks after the event, the Cyberathlete Professional League was set up. Thus, legitimizing what was to come.
“All Your Games Are Belong To Us”
The real boom and flourish came with the turn of the millennium and the noughties. Around the year 2002, the launch of Major League Gaming (MLG) proved to be successful. MLG is now one of the largest and successful eSports leagues, organizing tournaments for a plethora of games and enticing cash prizes. As the years went on, the cash prizes increased. The DOTA 2 International in 2018 prize pool offered up to $25 million to the winner. So, did the notoriety of the players.
Loading Modern Day
With the force of change that comes with technology and globalization, gaming and the internet surged through the globe. The culture started to blend and take over up and coming platforms. As streaming websites such as YouTube and now Twitch, began to take off, so did the culture of gaming. Games are now not only played, but streaming is in demand as well. There were 223 million frequent viewers of eSports games as of 2020.
It Takes A Village
Instead of performing around a televised schedule, professional gamers are streaming, free to view, daily for a couple of hours each day on platforms such as Twitch and YouTube. They show off their high tier skill set in public lobbies against casual players and fans. Viewers are fascinated by the skill gap between professionals and casuals. They are also interacting with their viewers and fans resulting in a deeper relationship between viewer and entertainer.
Former Cloud9 CS: GO, a professional player, known as Shroud, is the third most followed streamer on Twitch. He has since retired from competitive play and moved to the rival streaming platform Mixer. Much like when a massive personality like Lebron James (Professional Basketballer) changes teams, the fanbase has shifted with Shroud, which is a true testament to the appeal of eSports and gaming. It challenges traditional sports in terms of viewership numbers, no less due to the effort of content creators and professional players cultivating this culture.
YouTube’s most subscribed independent creator, Felix Kjellberg, aka PewDiePie’s rise to fame and content, has been centered around his ability to play video games and entertain his audience. True to any sport, especially when differentiating professionally. Each genre of the game requires a high level of tactical sense, reaction time, and even teamwork to able to put up a respectable display.
Although, most streamers such as Felix are not professionals, yet they share the same space. Through personalities like him, games are further popularized, remain, or are erased from the mainstream. They can draw fans and crowds towards organized tournaments between professionals of the competitive gaming scene. Not only is it the game that intrigues the viewer, but also the skill and personalities attached to the community surrounding that game.
ESports is now more popular than ever and is raking in substantially higher viewers and money as the year’s progress. Given the recent pandemic as well, the attention has almost vanished from traditional sports. As companies churn out more games, the older games have nearly a cult-like dedicated following. Then there will always be a game to watch, stream, and have a competitive match. The added advantage of gaming is that it can be done anytime from anywhere; there is nothing to stop this juggernaut from slowing down anytime soon.