A $1 billion sports business with more 300 million fans around the world is about to come to fruition, and it doesn’t involve grass pitches, stadiums or a ball. It’s actually known as eSports, which stands for electronic sports and is designated as professional competitive gaming that involves people playing against one another in video games while a live audience watches. The games are played online while millions of others also watch the event unfold.
Still unsure about gaming as a sport? Consider this: about 200 million viewers turned in to watch the 2018 League of Legends World Championship finals between IG and The Fnatic.
When sponsorships, winnings, and appearance fees are taken into consideration, it’s not uncommon for winning eSports tournaments participants to take home significant dollar amounts. For example, German player Kuro Takhasomi has won close to $3.5 million.
Where Can Fans Watch eSports?
Fans can watch eSports on the YouTube gaming channel or via Twitch, which is a dedicated Internet gaming channel. In the first quarter of 2018, people watched nearly 18 million hours’ worth between both channels. The three most popular games are:
• DOTA 2
• League of Legends
• Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
It’s anticipated that there will be 380 million eSports audience for 2018 – 165 million of which are enthusiastic eSports fans while the other 215 million are occasional viewers. The eSports industry suspects it will net about $95 million in revenue and surpass $1 billion in the next two years, with North America and China making up more than half of the amount. $96 million will be made through merchandise and tickets. Similar to traditional sports, eSports includes professionals, celebrities and commentators.
What’s The Typical Payout For Championships?
When you look at the prize money one would get from other sports, it’s about the same or more than them. For example,
• Confederations Cups – $20M
• Golf Masters – $11M
• National Basketball Association – $13M
With prize money hitting $24M in eSports, you can see it surpasses the others.
Even FIFA has the eWorld Cup where 32 of the best FIFA PlayStation and Xbox players compete for the FIFA eWorld Cup Champion title. The winner of the 2018 FIFA eWorld tournament, Mossad Aldossary, won 250,000 in prize money and got the chance to hang out with world class soccer stars.
Due to the popularity of eSports, the International Olympic Committee is trying to understand it better. The Global Association of International Sports Federation and IOC are working together to host an eSports Forum in France’s Olympic Museum. According to the two organizations, the goal is to look at collaborations, come up with a shared appreciation and develop a platform that can bring eSports and gaming industries to the Olympic Movement.
The U.S. Government is also taking the eSports industry seriously, as it designates the full-time League of Legends players as being professional athletes.
What Do The Critics Have To Say and The Rebuttal?
Critics balk at the idea that games shouldn’t be called a sport when gamers just sit down for hours at a time using their hands only. However, to become an eSports competitor you must practice and develop skills to be able to win the game. Competitors have to practice for long hours to get good at the game – much like other athletes. Physical exertion isn’t a requirement to be considered a sport. For example, snooker and darts players don’t do much moving, and they are considered athletes.
Whether it’s a sport or not, the reality is the industry is set to bring in $1.5 billion by 2020 and don’t need critics’ approval for it.