Gaming, as a legitimate competitive sport, took off in the later part of the 90s. A relative youngster in the sporting arena, it has somehow managed to become one of the largest spectator sports around. In fact, the 2017 Intel Extreme Masters World Championship pulled in a staggering 46 million online viewers, and was attended by 173,000 fans. That’s more than tuned in to watch the inauguration of a particular POTUS…
Other industries have started to sit up and take notice, from advertising brands to media companies. Fans can even place a bet on their favourite gaming teams at dedicated eSports betting sites.
Now that eSports has won the battle for recognition and found a solid foothold in sports entertainment, what’s next?
According to Newzoo, the global expert in gaming data and intelligence, the eSports revenue for 2017 is set to hit $696 million. There’s no sign of it stopping or slowing down either with revenues predicted to hit $1billion within the next two years. Most of this crazy cash mountain comes from sponsorship, advertising, broadcasting rights and prize money.
In 2011 the Defense of the Ancients (DOTA) tournament set an unprecedented prize pot for eSports with a cool $1.6 million. Since then the prizes have exploded making this look like small change. The prize money for the 2017 International Dota 2 tournament totalled a whopping $20.4 million. Members of the winning team, Wings Gaming, walked home with pockets $9,1 million heavier. It’s the largest eSport prize so far, but with revenue on a continuous climb, you can expect the prizes to follow suite.
The old image of a “gamer” was one of an adolescent boy, shut away in a dark and dingy room, engrossed in a make believe world. Kind of a sad and lonely character. But no more! The gamers of today are celebrities, being endorsed and sought after by some of the largest game developers and advertisers in the world.
The industry is now also realising the value of their professional players. Riot Games have brought in new rules for the North American League of Legends Championship Series. Starting in 2018, the minimum salary for their professional players will be $75,000, a considerable pay rise from the current $25,000.
Professional players receive the same adoration and respect from their fans as any other sporting professional. While they may not be at the dizzy heights of football or rock star level just yet, their status is on the rise along with their acceptance by the wider sporting circles. These professionals are inspiring a whole generation of new gamers ready to follow in their virtual footsteps. Now, the dream of playing games for a living is a real possibility!
A few years ago, if someone told you that you’d be cheering for competitive video gaming at the Olympics, you probably would have laughed in their face. But times are changing, and eSport at the Paris 2024 Olympics is a real possibility.
In April 2017 it was announced that electronic sports will be included in the 2022 Asian Games as a medal sport. Being recognised as an official sport at such a huge event, has brought the Olympic dream one step closer.
There are those, of course, who are opposed, including Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympics Committee (IOC). Bach believes that eSport goes against “Olympic rules and values of sport”, claiming that many of the popular eSport games are extremely violent. However, the fact that this is even in discussion shows just how far eSports has come.