In November 2017 e-Sports was recognized as a sports activity by the International Olympic Committee, and thus, the world of sports entered a new era. We are yet to witness the growth curve of e-Sports that will follow, however as the new generation of so-called millennials is the power-engine of it, a near-future continuance of its rapid development should be expected.
What is e-Sports and is it really a sport?
This part is for all the old-school readers or just for those who have no idea what we are talking about – do not worry, after finishing this article, you will have more than a basic knowledge.
E-Sports is short for electronic sports, and its goal is turning online gaming from recreational into a competitive spectator sport. The athletes are video gamers, and the audience is watching them compete against each other in tournaments or different leagues.
Many have argued if e-Sports is to be considered as a “real sport” by definition and on a first glance, the doubters may have a point. As there is no of the term “sport”, let’s take a look at the one provided by Oxford Dictionary, as commonly referred to:
“An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”.[i]
The adversaries of the qualification of e-Sports as a sport claim that if an activity lacks the “physical exertion” part, it should not be nominated as a sport. There cannot be a simple answer to this question, but we can safely say that the e-Sports could qualify to be defined as a “mind sport”, and the reasoning for it is as follows:
- Like the traditional professional athle of time developing new skills needed for competing in the e-Sports leagues and tournaments. The pace of the game can be extremely fast; thus,[ii][iii]
- We witness training conducted by coaches; there are championships and tournaments, cups and medals for winners; added to this, we have tv broadcasting, desk analysts, and commentators; investments in sports clubs; mental trainers, osteopaths, etc., which are all components of the “real sports.[iv]
-Sports as a sport, thus the gamers as athletes. In 2008, in South Korea was established the International e-Sports Federation, whose mission is to have e-Sports recognized as a legitimate sport. For nearly ten years its members grew from the founding 9 to 46. Some of these countries are – Belgium, China, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland, South Africa, U.A.E., etc.[v]
As e-Sports will make its debut as a medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, we can anticipate future growth in both popularity and recognition in more countries. [vi]
However, before jumping into the future, let’s track the e-Sports path to global popularity.
History of eSports[vii]
E-Sports is everything but a new phenomenon. The game “Spacewar!” was featured in the first recorded public video game competition back in 1972. The contest was held at Stanford University, US, and the winner got a yearly subscription to “Rolling Stone” magazine.[viii]
Growth in popularity of video gaming followed in the 80’s with the first large-scale competition – the Atari’s Space Invaders Championship staged in New York, US. It brought together 10,000 participants from all through the US and turned video gaming into a mainstream hobby. [ix]
With the advancement of internet connectivity in the early 1990’s, the first internet team game Netrek gained popularity, although it was created in the late 80’s. Nintendo World Championships, Nintendo PowerFest’94, Cyberathlete Professional League, QuakeCon, Professional Gamers League – massive e-Sports tournaments emerged as an aftermath.[x]
At the end of the 90’s the term “e-Sports” appears for the first time.
Meanwhile, the popularity of e-Sports in Asia continued rising, as China hosted the World e-Sports Games from 2004 to 2010.[xiii]
A “game-changer” for the e-Sports industry, Twitch was launched in 2011. The statistics show that the online streaming platform owned by Amazon has as many monthly viewers as cable news networks. In January 2018, Twitch had nearly a million people watching at any given point.
Physical viewership of eSports competitions and the scope of events have increased in tandem with the growth of online viewership.
All the above makes e-Sports currently the fastest growing sport in the world. As already mentioned, e-Sports will make its debut as a medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games, and it will be included as a demonstration sport at the Asian Games in Jakarta in September this year.
Why is it a Big Deal?
First and foremost, the follower base of e-Sports is massive. Just for you to have an idea what we are facing – in 2013, League of Legends had 27 million viewers, more than every sporting event except for the Super Bowl. Second, large arenas like Wembley, Staples Center, Shanghai Oriental Sports Center, have been entirely sold out, as fans do also watch live e-Sports.
However, the most notable aspect of the fan-base of e-Sports is not the number of the supporters itself, but it is combined with their age as well. Most of the e-Sports followers are in their 20’s, which makes it the perfect target group for marketers and media channels. As the attention span of the generation of the millennials is way shorter than the one before, the marketing companies must adapt to the situation and e-Sports is providing them with quite a suitable environment to do so.
Expert predictions show that by 2020 global eSports market revenue will reach 1.65 billion U.S. dollars. For comparison, in 2015, worldwide revenues generated in the eSports market amounted to 325 million U.S. dollars.[xiv]
[i] https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/sport Visited on 11.07.2018.
[iv]” Nearly every big e-Sports tournament is streamed free to twitch.tv. Twitch gives an opportunity to the fans to watch their favorite team or individual player while chatting with other spectators.
[vi] With close to 10,000 athletes competing, the Asian Games are the second biggest sporting tournament in the world after the Olympics.