by Connor Bergeron, Chief Editor of Sports Betting & eSports at https://www.truenorthcasinos.com and sport management assistant tutor.
Video games are ingrained in our society and have seemingly become a new normal for Americans and people worldwide. They are being played more today in America than they ever have been. According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA 2015), 155 million Americans play video games compared to 86 million just four years ago, and four out of five households own a device used to play video games. Video games are no longer just for kids, as the average gamer is 35 years old and has been playing for about 13 years (ESA 2015). With this increase in participation numbers, a new activity has been spawned – playing video games is its own sport.
The popularity of competitive gaming, or eSports, has only continued to grow over the past decade, creating a $748 million industry in which players around the world interact with each other and is expected to swell to $1.9 billion by 2018 (Kato 2016). The X-Games now include eSports, and television networks like ESPN and TBS cover eSports competitions. The eSports industry is expected to attract more than 113 million fans (Wingfield 2015). These are not just casual activities for kids to play in their free time. Playing video games has become a legitimate career and professional sport entity.
Professional eSports tournaments garner prize pools upwards of $18 million (Tack 2014). This is a higher prize pool than such traditional sport contests as the Masters, the Super Bowl and the Tour de France. ESports competitions are often played in traditional sporting arenas and are even included in sport competitions like the X-Games. Teams train with coaches and managers for hours a day to compete at the highest level in front of large audiences and broadcasters, often times called “shoutcasters.” Sport visas are given to international players in order to compete in America. Fantasy leagues have been instituted during League of Legends Championship Series. Even drug testing has been introduced to maintain a level playing field. Indeed this activity mirrors attributes associated with traditional professional sports, indicating its potential for commercialized success.
The number and scope of tournaments has increased significantly, growing from about 10 tournaments in 2000 to about 260 in 2010 (Popper 2013). During one day of The International, an eSports competition for one of the biggest games worldwide, called “Defense of the Ancients 2,” Twitch, a popular media outlet of eSports and video games in general, recorded 4.5 million unique views, with each viewer watching for an average of two hours (Popper 2013). In 2013, it was estimated that approximately 71,500,000 people watched competitive gaming (Warr 2014). These numbers rival many traditional sport contests, but pale in comparison to mega-sport events such as the FIFA World Cup and the Super Bowl. To be fair, however, eSports are still relatively new compared to those two events and growing more than they are.
The long-term success and financial viability of eSports hinge on a number of factors. There are accessibility issues associated with broadcasts of and commentary for eSports competitions. The games are fast and full of jargon that the average viewer may have a difficult time understanding. There is also no unified governing body to regulate game play across eSports. Traditional sports around the world have a model in place where governing bodies (NFL, MLB, etc.) set rules and regulations for their respective sports, but eSports seem reluctant to follow this model.
With contact sports under scrutiny for safety issues and many youth leagues suffering from low participation numbers, the stage is set for a new age of nontraditional sports to emerge. A nontraditional sport is one where the primary action is done by a mechanism controlled by a person. Drone racing and robot fighting are included with eSports in this regard. The human participants are not at risk of injury like in traditional sports. While I do not see eSports, or other nontraditional sports, completely replacing modern sports, I do see it being a new form of sport that offers the same competitive game play while cutting down on some of the risk factors that are associated with modern sport.
When projecting the future success of sports, one must look at youth participation numbers. A staggering 99% of boys and 94% of girls play a video game before age 13 (Lenhart, Kahne, Middaugh, Macgill, Evans & Vitak 2008). So while it may seem like a far-fetched idea to some that eSports are going to be a major commercial success in the future, the numbers stand to reason that competitive gaming is ready to level up.
Entertainment Software Association. “2015 Essential Facts about the Computer and Video Game Industry,” accessed September 13, 2015, http://www.theesa.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/ESA-Essential-Facts-2015.pdf.
Kato, Matthew. 2016. “The rising level of competition.” Gameinformer, 14-16.
Lenhart, Amanda, Joseph Kahne, Ellen Middaugh, Alexandra Rankin Macgill, Chris Evans, and Jessica Vitak. 2008. Teens, Video Games, and Civics. Washington D.C.: Pew Internet and American Life Project.
Arabic Bet, 2016. “The growth of eSports gaming in Saudi Arabia and the Arabic world”, https://www.Arabicbet.org
Popper, Ben. “Field of Streams: How Twitch made Video Games a Spectator Sport,” last modified September 30, 2013, accessed October 12, 2014, http://www.theverge.com/2013/9/30/4719766/twitch-raises-20-million-esports-market-booming.
Tack, Daniel. 2014. “Big Plays, Bigger Payouts.” Gameinformer, 16-17.
Warr, Phillippa. “ESports in Numbers: Five Mind-Blowing Stats,” last modified April 9, 2014, accessed November 9, 2014, http://www.redbull.com/en/esports/stories/1331644628389/esports-in-numbers-five-mind-blowing-stats.
Wingfield, Nick. “With Halo 5: Guardians, Microsoft Seeks to Lure E-Sports Players Back,” http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/05/technology/with-halo-5-microsoft-seeks-to-lure-e-sports-players-back.html?_r=1.