Esports: From Hobby to Big Prize Money to Mainstream Sporting Event
Mon, October 25, 2021

Esports: From Hobby to Big Prize Money to Mainstream Sporting Event

Esports has finally become a booming industry, proving to be lucrative especially for those who have made a career out of it / Photo by: BudapestiHonvedSportegyesulet via Wikimedia Commons

 

Esports has finally become a booming industry, proving to be lucrative especially for those who have made a career out of it. And now, it’s taken another step in its evolution as it makes the transition from just another form of entertainment to an official sporting event. What we’re talking about is esports being featured as a medal sport at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games to be held in the Philippines from Dec. 5 to 10, 2019.

For the first time, video games like Dota 2, Starcraft 2, Hearthstone, Tekken 7, and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang will be a part of a medal event in a multi-sport competition supervised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Last year, esports was featured as a demonstration sport in the Asian Games held in Jakarta, Indonesia. Suffice it to say that players of these video games are more than excited to have the chance to gain pride and glory for their country while doing what they love most. Six medals are up for grabs. 

Aside from the abovementioned games taking center stage in SEAG 2019, the League of Legends World Championship also generated a lot of buzz just recently. This year, the finals happened in Paris, and it garnered record-breaking viewership as it netted nearly four million concurrent viewers for the league’s second semifinal match.

 

The Rise of League of Legends Championship

The 2019 League of Legends World Championship was held from Oct. 2 to Nov. 10, 2019. As expected, the event was sold out, a testament to its massive support, especially among the younger generation. League of Legends is a multiplayer online battle arena game, which has been on the market for about two years now. It has also succeeded in establishing a strong community of players around its free-to-play model. 

How times have really changed. Less than 10 years ago, a lot of people from LOL developer Riot Games, which was then a mere startup in Los Angeles founded by two college friends, thought that hosting a tournament was preposterous.

In an article published by The Washington Post, a major American daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C., Riot Games co-founder Marc Merrill revealed, “Most people were very skeptical about esports, including a lot of people inside the company.” He added that people within his company would laugh at him whenever he brought the idea of competitive play for League of Legends. Of course, Merrill has since proven them wrong and that he was right all along.

During their first major tournament in 2011, the gamers brought their own computers, with Dreamhack hosting the event at a convention center in Jonkoping, Sweden. “At the time, League of Legends was a big game but it [was just] another game alongside many other games at these multigame weekend conventions,” Riot’s esports director Whalen Rozelle said. 

The event generated a lot of viewership online. During that same year, Justin.tv, launched Twitch, a gaming-centric, live-streamed video site that capitalized on the millions of people who were already watching gaming content online. The platform provided a more accessible and convenient way for audiences to watch esports without having mainstream media buy-in or support. 

Trends That Made Esports Successful

Esports has become a big business th at continues to evolve from just a vibrant niche to a major form of entertainment just like traditional sports such as baseball and basketball that are enjoyed and have a strong following around the world. Business Insider, an American financial and business news website, mentioned in their article that esports gained more popularity when it got support from mainstream celebrities like Michael Jordan, Drake, and DJ Marshmello and traditional media outlets such as ESPN started to broadcast esports events as well.

Industry insiders expect that total esports viewership will grow at a 9% compound annual growth rate between 2019 and 2023, rising from 454 million in 2019 to 646 million in 2023. This puts the audience increase on pace to nearly double over six years, as the 2017 audience stood at 335 million. Esports also has had its success due to live-streaming and gaming opportunities courtesy of Twitch and YouTube Gaming, platforms that provide fans and casual viewers alike a chance to have a direct connection to their favorite players and teams.

“I think of esports as the mainstreaming of gaming or the pop culture instantiation of gaming versus the pure idea of these players becoming professionals to compete at the highest levels,” Rick Yang, partner at NEA, a venture capital firm that invests in esports, said in an interview. He added that it’s important to remember that esports provide opportunities where it involves gaming, media, pop culture, and commerce.

Esports has become a big business th at continues to evolve from just a vibrant niche to a major form of entertainment just like traditional sports / Photo by: Xavier Caré via Wikimedia Commons

 

The Biggest Esports Events of 2019

Eports includes the biggest and most popular video games throughout the year. League of Legends, CS:GO, Dota 2, and Overwatch have all had great years in terms of viewership and engagements. The Loadout, a website dedicated to providing news about games and streaming community, mentioned that Fortnite has also begun to establish itself as a top competitive game as well.

So far, the esport game that has the biggest viewership is League of Legends, with its most recent tournament being viewed by 3.9 million people as players competed for the grand prize of $8,948,000. Meanwhile, Fortnite has total prize money of $64,338,000, making it the esports with the biggest total prize money, and the competition was viewed by more than 2.9 million people during the Fortnite World Cup. The Dota 2 tournament was viewed by 2 million while its players were competing for the $46,150,000 pot money.

So now, do we allow our children to play video games all they want on the off chance that they too would become big-prize money winners in esports competitions someday or even just be a big video game streamer with millions of followers?