At the start of the century, gaming was still considered a mostly niche market with a more or less specific target demographic. Yet, video games have now expanded their appeal to convert players across countries, ages, and tech skills.
This increased reach has resulted in a shift in the dynamics of the gaming industry: As more and more people like to play games and watch others show off their skills, the industry of eSports was born – and right now it is booming.
The Origins of eSports
eSports is the name that the industry has come up with to describe competitive video game tournaments, where professional players vie for a coveted title in front of an audience, as well as the honor it brings with it and often a hefty amount of money. The new trend is based on a wider target audience that is very engaged with gaming, but was really made possible with the advent of platforms like Twitch, which is in turn based on the technology of live video streaming.
It was on their own YouTube channels and later on Twitch and the like that gamers managed to amass a critical following of fans that has turned their hobby into a proper profession. Gamers usually specialize in a few titles and upload their efforts or set specific times where they livestream their gameplay – usually with their signature commentary and while chatting with fans.
Competitive Online Gaming Revenue Keeps Rising
Building on that legacy, professional gamer teams were assembled and eSports tournaments were organized. Packed with parallel events, exciting broadcaster commentary, gamers dressed in professional uniforms, and geared up with cutting-edge tech and festive trophy ceremonies, the atmosphere inside an eSports arena is no less impressive or exciting than during a World Cup final in regular sports.
Equally impressive are the numbers when it comes to eSports earnings. It is estimated that the figure will reach a milestone in 2019 at $1.1 billion and by 2021 it will amount roughly to $1.65 billion. A big part of that money comes from sponsors such as Intel, Coca-Cola, T-Mobile and Audi, who conclude advertising deals with professional teams – just like in traditional sports. And the numbers keep climbing: Fortnite recently announced that its prize pool for 2018 will rise to a staggering $100 million.
More and More Viewers Turn to eSports
eSports gaming has truly blossomed, and it seems that the trend will keep going strong in the next years as more and more developer studios are looking for ways to tap into the rising market. While games like Dota 2, League of Legends and Overwatch have established their own tournaments and loyal audiences, other companies are taking their first steps in the eSports industry – including virtual reality and augmented reality games.
It seems that in terms of interest, there is more than enough to go around: Statista estimated that in 2017 191 million people identify as frequent viewers and another 194 million as occasional viewers – which is significantly higher than the roughly 111 million viewers the Super Bowl saw in 2017.
And the figure is expected to rise to 589 million viewers by 2020 – almost 50% of which identify as eSports enthusiasts.
Games have been a favorite pastime since the dawn of time – and in most cases, they are inherently social events. eSports seems to be the ideal blend between our evolving gaming habits as technology develops and our unchanging need for collective fun.