What is eSports, and Why is Everyone Talking About It?
So, you’ve just recently heard the term “eSports”, maybe you’ve heard someone from work mention it, or your kid has started talking about it, or maybe you’ve seen it on a news headline (teenager wins $3m in Fortnite tournament). No matter where you’ve heard it, you’re probably starting to develop a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out), and decided it’s about time you took a couple of minutes to figure out what the heck is an “eSport”, and why are you hearing about it just now.
Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. Recently, at adHOME, we had our weekly breakfast club presentation where we learned about eSports and more than just a few eyebrows raised when it was mentioned that the eSports industry has surpassed an estimated $1 billion valuation.
Defined by Dictonary.com, an eSport is “a multiplayer video game played competitively for spectators, typically by professional gamers.” In a nutshell, eSports is an umbrella term for competitive gaming tournaments. If you’re still confused or you’d like to know more, don’t worry, we’re going to break it down for you, starting with what types of multiplayer video games can become an eSport.
What makes a Multiplayer Video Game an eSport?
In order for a video game to be a successful eSport, it needs to hit a few qualifications. First off, there needs to be as few barriers to entry as possible. The more popular eSport titles like League of Legends, Fortnite, and Dota 2 are free to play (no purchase required to play the game), and are available on most gaming platforms (e.g. PC, Xbox, PlayStation).
The game also needs to be easy to learn, and hard to master. This factor keeps players playing the game, and continuing to learn and improve. Those two factors help contribute to the final qualification; an eSport title needs to have a large player base to gather competitive interest. If the game isn’t popular, people won’t have as big of an interest to play competitively, and there will be no one to spectate it.
Now some games don’t necessarily need to meet all 3 qualifications to become a successful eSport, but the more qualifications it meets the greater the chance of it being a hit.
Who Watches eSports, Where Do They Watch Them, and Why?
Surprisingly, the eSport spectator demographic is very similar to the ‘“traditional” sports demographic. A report conducted by GlobalWebIndex found that 15% of internet users are eSports fans, with 73% of viewers aged 16-34 years old, and 71% of eSports fans are male.
Most of the time, if you want to watch an eSports tournament, you will have to turn to live-streaming websites like Twitch.tv and YouTube to view them. Twitch.tv’s prominence for streaming all major eSports tournaments is due to its growth as a live stream platform directly affecting the growth of the eSports scene.
In 2011, Justin.tv launched the website Twitch.tv, a platform for their subgenre video game category. By October 2012, Twitch.tv had over 20 million monthly visitors, and when eSports tournaments failed to take off on mainstream TV, Twitch was the natural answer. Twitch quickly grew to the largest live streaming platform on the planet.
Viewers now watch over 900 million hours on Twitch, therefore it’s easy to see how Twitch has become the central hub for live eSports gaming content. However recently, ESPN has ventured into the eSports scene and has started covering it across their channels. eSports content from ESPN mostly features news articles published on their dedicated YouTube channel and website, but back in 2018 they even aired the Overwatch League finals on live TV.
Another alternative to watching eSports on TV or online is watching it live in some of the largest venues in the world. Korea has seen the largest recognition in eSports, and they’ve started developing arenas specifically for eSports. Some of the largest eSports tournaments have sold out the world’s largest arena including last year’s League of Legends world finals that sold out 40,000 tickets in less than 4 hours, for Beijing’s Olympic “Bird’s Nest” stadium. But why would people watch eSports anyways when they could play the game themselves?
To put the question into perspective, why watch a hockey game when you could play hockey yourself? While there’s no clear way to answer this question, there are a few reasons why someone would watch a game rather than play it. Maybe they’re not in a position to play the sport, or maybe they’d like to learn the strategies of the world’s best players.
How do Professional Gamers Make Money?
Surprisingly, there are many streams of income professional gamers can leverage to make money in addition to prize pools from tournaments. One of the main forms of income for professional gamers is signing with eSports organizations.
These organizations sign top players to compete in tournaments on behalf of their organization. Organizations provide players with salaries, benefits, coaching staff, and top organizations provide access to resources like personal trainers, mental health coaches, and dieticians to improve the quality of life of their players. In return, players share a portion of their prize pools with the organization.
eSports Organizations also benefit from the brand exposure players provide, increasing merchandise sales, and sponsorship appeal. One of the largest eSports organizations in the world, Cloud9, has just under 100 players signed and is valued at over $300 million. Around 70-80% of eSports Organization’s revenue comes from sponsorships and advertising. This includes ads during live-streamed events, logo placement on team jerseys, and product recommendations from players.
Another form of income some professional gamers venture into is content creation, on popular sites like YouTube and Twitch.
On YouTube, players typically upload videos of their games and earn money through the ad revenue. Because professional players are among some of the best in the world at what they do, their content can attract quite a large audience interested in learning from the best, or people may be interested in the player due to their professional success or personality.
Mentioned before, Twitch.tv is a platform where professionals gravitate towards to live-stream themselves playing games. In addition to being a website prime for live-streaming eSports events, Twitch gives users the opportunity to personally connect with their favourite players or live-streamers.
Through Twitch’s integrated chat function users can talk to other viewers, and real-time interaction is possible between the live-streamer and the viewer. Viewers can subscribe to live-streamers to gain unique perks, and also have the option to donate money to their favourite streamers. Live-streaming is a form of interaction that is unique to the eSports & gaming industry, the digital platform achieves a personal connection between the player and viewer which isn’t possible with traditional sports.
To put it into perspective, imagine if you could watch Tiger Woods play a round of golf in real-time, explaining his strategies and giving advice to users who ask him questions. That experience would be invaluable, and it’s one of the many reasons why eSports has grown to over $1 billion in 2019 and expected to double in the next 5 or so years.
So, ready to buckle down and play some video games?
Honestly, though, what do you think about eSports? Do you see video games and eSports as a growing industry ready to be leveraged? Let us know in the comments below!