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Esports arena filled with spectators.

What Are Esports? A Look at the Latest Trend in the Gaming Industry

Have you heard the term Esports and wondered what it meant? Unless you are involved directly in the process, it can seem like a foreign online community. It’s something you’re aware exists, but you don’t know the specifics or what it’s all about. 

Esports are a growing world of gamers who participate in large gatherings of video game competitions. Known for being extremely organized, Esports are a mass gathering of participants in video games. Think of it as a basketball tournament or a round-robin event for tennis matches. 

Esports, short for electronic sports, can involve a number of different video games. In order to be an Esport, there is a gathering, often in a large setting, of esports players. Esport events, like an Esports tournament, can bring in as many as a million viewers for a single game. The Esports games are often played by professional video game players, including teams, to create a more exciting viewer experience.

How Did Esports Get Started?

Believe it or not, Esports actually date back to the early 1970s, when players would compete against one another via large computers, playing a single game. The first known Esports competition was held at Stanford University in 1972, where gamers played Spaceward. Participants competed in individual and team categories at this inaugural event. 

Within a few years, game companies, particularly Sega in Japan, got in on the competitions to help boost sales for their games. They increased revenue from games by hosting hundreds of competitions while adding hype to their ongoing games.

The Expansion to Global Gaming

Global Esport competitions became possible with the existence of the internet. Once gamers could interact with one another in real-time in online battle arenas, the ability to play against one another, even internationally, became possible. 

This greatly expanded the world of Esports as we know them today. Countries like South Korea, Japan, and China account for huge numbers in the Esports athletes world. This market has boomed for them ever since the expansion of broadband internet. 

Another reason that Esports are believed to be so wildly popular in these areas is due to a huge unemployment period during the late 90s. Because many people were at home and looking for activities, Esports grew. It was an affordable, easy hobby that people could engage in at home.

Esports Today: What Are the Norms?

Today, thousands of gamers view a single game during these competitions in multiplayer online battle arenas. Highly visible and widely hyped, this is a place for video game sponsors to find new players to represent, for players to learn more about their favorite games, for new games to be released, and more. They’re essentially a mecca for gamers and everything within their universe. 

Esports are often held in large arenas where pros and hobbyists alike can compete in various tournaments. Others can attend in person to view the games or visit local booths. Esports can be viewed remotely by fans across the globe, with users logging in and watching the competitors online. 

The ability to access games from any location has allowed the practice to grow in popularity. It doesn’t require fans or participants to travel like with traditional sports, but instead lets them join from the comfort of their own home. In addition, users have been able to compete or interact during many stay-at-home orders throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

How Does Esports Bring in Money?

Recently, Esports became a billion-dollar industry. There’s no denying that it brings in impressive price tags. However, those who aren’t familiar with the business model may wonder how Esports pack such an impressive price tag.

Take a look at how the industry brings in funds and an impressive profit for those involved. 

Hosting

First, let’s look at those hosting the competition. Hosts rent the venue and set up the logistics, but they bring in the dollars, too. There are entry fees for participants who want to join the competition. Sponsors pay to have their names on the event. Booth rentals are available for those selling items to the masses. 

Ticket sales round out the revenue to be made, and tickets are purchased by those attending professional leagues in person or online. 

Winning or Being Sponsored

For gamers, funds are earned in two ways: through promotion and sponsorships or by winning tournaments. By getting exposure and working your way to the top, you can be picked up by companies who want to back you financially. By winning competitions, you earn prizes like money. Depending on the size of the competition, this can be a huge cash prize, or it can come with perks like free popular games or access to programs. 

There are even franchise leagues for Esports, much like the NFL or NBA. Owners recruit the best players, pay them to perform well on their team, and own the rights to their team. Companies can then sell licensed items for additional revenue to the team, its players, and those who own the team. 

The first Esports league was called Overwatch League. Overwatch League was launched in 2016 by the video game development brand Blizzard Entertainment, and it is still in existence today with 20 teams of 12 players. Players participate in the game Overwatch in a series of tournaments before an annual champion is named. 

Teams are located internationally:

  • 11 teams in the United States
  • 4 teams in China
  • 2 teams in Canada
  • 1 team in South Korea
  • 1 team in the United Kingdom
  • 1 team in France

Sales

Video game brands and companies that make gaming chairs, computer screens, and other accessories profit through sales. At each event, they can move products or boost online orders by showing off what they can do and what they have to offer. Swag or coupon codes for attendees can even sweeten the pot. 

Are Esports Classified as a Sport?

There has been much controversy surrounding the classification of Esports. In many ways, it’s a class in and of itself. With competition and the ability to attend and view games both in-person and online, Esports have their own unique factors that almost call for a new category altogether.

As to whether or not Esports should be considered a sport, there is much back and forth. Many believe that it is an intense competition involving pro athletes, thus making Esports very much a sport that should qualify for the Olympic games. Esports require skill, practice, and growing knowledge in order to reach success. 

Others argue that Esports should not be classified as a sport because there is no physical component. 

Some also cite the need for an emotional or spiritual part of the sport to make participants feel good while involved. For most sports, this comes from running or being outdoors. As Esports calls for neither of these, the classification of Esports as a sport has yet to take place. 

In recent years, Esports gained recognition from the Olympics when the International Olympic Committee talked about the growing popularity and future possibility of including Esports in the games. 

Most recently, they announced that in order to fit Olympic criteria, an added physical portion needs to be included in any popular Esports at the Olympic level. 

Conclusion

The world of Esports is quickly growing and expanding in the United States and beyond, particularly in Asian countries. From game companies themselves to those who host the events, to players who compete live or online in a multiplayer online battle arena, Esports are expanding by the day, and not just in North America. There are even prize pools and some professional leagues and championships, like the League of Legends World Championship.

More than a billion dollars has been earned through Esports, and viewership continues to rise as more and more people find access to Esports through platforms like Twitch, Youtube, Xbox, and ESPN. 

Whether you’re new to this market or are an avid viewer, there is much to learn about the reach of Esports and what it has to offer the online community. 

To learn more about Esports, including how you can get involved, take a look at our emails. Not on our email list? Sign up today to learn more. 

Sources:

Esports Part 1: What are Esports? | Harvard

What is eSports? History, Top Teams, Revenues and Risks | GameQuitters

What is eSports? A look at an explosive, billion-dollar industry | CNN