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Electronic Sports or eSports have come increasingly popular over the last five or six years. Once the province of players at home, these events are now being held in public in stadiums and are attracting supporters just like any other ‘real’ sport.

eSports even has its own stars, with some commanding fees from tournament organisers to encourage them to take part. It’s now well on the way to becoming a billion dollar business that attracts players and spectators from all over the world. In fact, some insiders even believe that eSports may one day overtake football as a spectator sport.

eSports started becoming a viable concern about six years ago. By 2014, it was attracting nearly 90 million viewers each year. Twitch TV, which has hosted some major events in the past and is considered a big player in the sector, was recently sold to Amazon for $970 million.

eSports at a glance:
  • It’s not just one game like football – eSports are a loose arrangement of different games from single player shooting varieties to strategy and poker games.
  • The 2015 a Defense of the Ancients tournament in Seattle saw players vying for a share of $18 million. It was even bigger the next year with a purse of $20 million and the winning team taking home over $9 million between them.
  • The games aren’t just single players trying to win the top prize, there can be teams who work together, particularly when it comes to high level strategy games.
  • Research by the company Newzoo, shows that there are nearly 150 million people involved in one way or another with eSports and that growth doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

Between 2015 and 2016 the industry grew by just over 50% and produced revenue of nearly $500 million. The money comes mostly from sponsorship, particularly from game developers themselves. Big names also include Coca-Cola and there’s even been some partnerships developing between traditional sports with major football teams in the USA buying game teams. One of the key attractions for sponsors is that advertising on eSport platforms is a lot cheaper than taking an ad out for an event like the Superbowl.

You can now watch eSports in a variety of ways. Events are regularly screened on social media platforms such as YouTube and Amazon has bought its own live streaming site in Twitch. Some of these sites get millions of new viewers each month and the level of interaction between broadcasters and users has recently been taken to a whole new level.

eSports is even beginning to find its way onto cable television in the US as the number of people who want easy access to the competitions begins to grow. The BBC and Skysports in the UK are also exploring the options for bringing online gaming to our television screens.

Most believe that virtual reality, however, is going to be the perfect platform for eSports enthusiasts  in the future, particularly with the immersive experience that it provides. Expect, also, the number of games where people compete online to increase dramatically. According to the stats there over 2 billion mobile gamers around the world and, combined with the surge in prize money, these tournaments could be a big draw for many of them.

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