eSports: A Passing Fad, or the Next Big Thing?

Have you heard a lot about “eSports” and “competitive gaming” and are not sure what to think? Stick around. In this article we break down the biggest scene in modern gaming for your benefit and give you some educated insights into the growth of this scene and where it could be going in the future. eSports are huge right now, but are they just a passing fad?

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An eSport is when a video game is played competitively and professionally, with real money and viewership at stake. eSports have existed in some form or another since the early ’70s but really began to take off in the late ’90s with titles like Counter-Strike, Quake and the original Warcraft series. This led to the establishment of various online leagues and tournaments.

Modern examples of eSports include basically every popular PC game on the market and one of the most popular multi-platform titles available right now. The biggest names in eSports in early 2017 are Dota 2, League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch. These are all games with deep mechanics, a high skill ceiling for coordinated play, and a spectator-friendly experience.

Now that you understand what eSports are, let’s talk about their recent growth.

There are two key points in recent history that I believe have been turning points for eSports.

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The first is through the launch of Twitch.tv, an online game streaming service. Thanks to Twitch, watching people play video games live has become one of the most popular forms of content consumption on the Internet, and many of the most popular Twitch streamers are pro gamers in their respective competitive scenes. By driving this attention to competitive gaming and funding the players within, Twitch has empowered competitive gamers to revolutionize the world of sports.

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The second is through The International 2014. The International was a tournament for Dota 2 hosted by its developers, Valve. While The International has been run since 2011 –  2014 broke a world record for having the largest prize pool in eSports history at 10.9 million US dollars. This is the point where many news outlets raised an eyebrow, and in every year since The International has repeatedly broken its own record for having the largest prize pool in eSports.

This is the point where the world realized this was a serious thing. Competitive scenes have existed in video games for a long time, but by utilizing viewership from dedicated spectators and funds from pros and fans of those pros, game publishers have been able to host massive tournaments pitting the best players in the world against each other for millions of dollars. That’s a pretty huge deal.

But with such exponential growth over the past decade, is eSports going to last?

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There is a notable trend with major game releases lately. Everyone in the gaming circle is attempting to make a big-budget eSports title: they see Dota and want a bite of the MOBA pie, they see Overwatch and want a bite of the Hero Shooter pie, and so on. Games catering to competitive scenes and eSports have become the industry’s biggest modern trend.

In all likeliness, the biggest games of at least the next five years will all be major eSports titles.

I still believe that eSports will last. People will continue spectating eSports, and it will continue generating much revenue for the pros and the developers alike. The audience is there, it’s constantly growing, and thanks to the mechanical intricacies of the top eSports, the viewing experience can be just as fresh and exciting as traditional sports.

People are going to keep releasing new games that provide spectator-friendly experiences with sky-high skill ceilings, and the gaming populace has no reason to stop eating it up. Being competitive has been a key part of the gaming scene for time immemorial, and with the rise of eSports, people now have monetary incentives to become the best at the games they play.

Even if they aren’t making it to major LANs and tournaments like The International, streamers on Twitch are often able to make a living just by providing an entertaining viewing experience for their watchers.

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Overall, I don’t feel like eSports are going anywhere. According to Newzoo, eSports are estimated to generate $1128 million in global revenue by 2019, with the projected audience for eSports projected to reach 490 million in its world-wide audience. This is simply following the growth trends of the past few years, and ultimately time will tell how accurate these estimations are.

However, as long as people enjoy playing video games, and watching other people play video games, I think eSports are here to stay.

What about you?

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