Ever since I can remember, I have been a huge fan of video games. They are something that is exciting, and they can take you to another world of excitement, suspense, and adventure. As video games have become more and more popular over the years, professional video-game competitions, also known as eSports have become even more popular as well.
Today, I am going to take you through the history of eSports, and some of the reasons why eSports is so relevant now, and why it will become a major industry within the next several years.
History of Video Games & eSports
Believe it or not, the first actual competition ever for a video game was held at Stanford University back in 1972. 5 university students were assembled, and played the highly popular game at the time Spacewar!. Spacewar! was a shooting video game in which a ship had to shoot asteroids and rocks in front of it while avoiding being consumed by the star that is chasing you. Instead of money, the winner of the competition received a year-long subscription to The Rolling Stones Magazine.
A couple of years passed, and then, big-time video-game producer at the time Atari hosted the first-ever mass competition for its hit arcade game: Space Invaders. This competition turned out to be a huge success, as over 10,000 people participated in this event. The prize for this competition was their very own arcade version of Asteroids. Now, this was a big deal back then. The winner of this competition and the first national eSports winner was a guy by the name of William Salvador Heineman. This was the largest video-game competition at the time.
In 1981, Walter May invented the first-ever score-tracking company called Twin Galaxies. This company tracked high scores all over the US, with over 100 arcades in its portfolio. His job was to make sure that no gamer was cheating, or breaking any form of rules. Think of this as the first-ever video-game refereeing service. But it did not stop there. He founded the first-ever eSports team named the U.S National Video Team. Additionally, he hosted the first-ever video game masters tournament in the United States. It is clear that he is one of the pioneers of eSports.
In the 1990s, more and more companies started to create their own video game tournaments. One of the bigger companies today, Nintendo, started their own tournaments that would be in 29 cities with each tournament having a cash prize of $250 at each tournament. The biggest cash prize that came from one tournament in the 1990s was a cash prize of $15,000.
Although there were various tournaments in the 1990s, it was not until the 2000s that video-game leagues started to take form, and this really made it so that eSports took a huge step forward. Leagues such as MLG, Electronic Sports League, and World Cyber Leagues were formed, attracting players from all over the world.
In 2010, streaming services really started to affect the viewership of competitive eSports. The 2010s introduced streaming platforms such as YouTube and Twitch as a place to watch gaming, which affected the viewership and popularity of watching video games. One of the biggest competitions from the 2010s was the League of Legends Tournament in 2016, which sold out the Staples Center, and had 43 million viewers online. The most-watched event in the 2010s was another League of Legends Tournament that was held in Pairs. The event had 350 million hours watched in total and had 60 million unique viewers.
Today, there are eSports leagues all over the world and have major sponsorship deals, televised media rights, and a big presence on social media. As video games have evolved, and the eSports industry has continued to be relevant, there is no doubt that the eSports industry is here to stay.
Relatability, Inclusivity & Access
One of the reasons why eSports are so popular among the younger generations especially is because playing video games is a very relatable thing. That is one of the biggest reasons why eSports are so popular in the first place. You do not need to be athletic, smart, or have any special traits to play video games. Video Games in general are also very addicting. I know this for a fact because I play video games and when I pick up a controller, I cannot put it down. Video games are entertaining, and for the younger demographic, they look to their favorite Fortnite Player on YouTube or Twitch after a long day to relax with. As video games are competitive, seeing the emotions of players winning or losing on the internet, it drives content and views.
Playing video games is relatively easy to do. To play video games in general, you do not need to leave your house. For some activities, you might need gear, and might have to travel depending on how competitive of a level you are at. To play in a tournament, all you have to do is login onto the internet at your home and if you are playing a team-based competition, it would be a good idea to have a mic that you can listen to your teammates with as you play. Additionally, watching an eSports tournament online is also incredibly easy to do. Because eSports tournaments usually happen throughout the day, you can go online, and watch a competitive video game competition.
Diversity & Quality of Video Games
What makes eSports such a unique industry is that there is a diverse amount of games that you can compete in. Ranging from sports to shooting, to role-playing games, people can compete in almost any game that you can think of. And because there are so many different video game competitions, it is easier to find an eSports competition online based on what types of video games you enjoy.
Not only is the amount of video games, and streaming options to watch eSports competitions are diverse, but the graphics of video games have significantly evolved over the years. It’s impressive to see the evolution of video games back when they started to become relevant in the 70s and 80’s to the behemoth of an industry that it is today. The graphics, and aesthetics of video games are one of the most important reasons people play them in the first place.
Social Aspect of Gaming
Arguably the biggest reason why video games are so amazing, and perhaps the most forgotten one is that video games are meant to bring people together. Since online gaming became more relevant starting in the 2000s, it has transformed the way we view video games. With the rise of online gaming, people are able to meet and play together from around the world. My brother plays Fortnite a lot, and he plays with people from Spain and Brazil whenever he plays in tournaments.
In fact, most eSports competitions are team-based, meaning that you will most likely have people on your team. This only adds to the social aspect of eSports, and video games as a whole. So whether you like it or not, you will have to learn how to communicate well with your teammates if you want to achieve success.
eSports Revenue Breakdown
When it is all said and done, revenue, and how money is made in this industry is the most important thing from a business perspective. Here is a graph from statista.com that breaks down worldwide eSports market revenue in 2021:
As you can see, sponsorship deals are the biggest way eSports teams/companies make their revenue. And it is not even close. Breaking down this graph, we can see that Media Rights, Publishing Fees, and Merchandising are some of the biggest ways that eSports companies make their revenue.
What surprises me the most is that streaming is not higher on the list for market revenue. Considering that video games have a huge online audience, I would have thought that streaming would have been higher on this list. Especially for the younger generations, they turn to YouTube and Twitch to watch eSports competitions rather than cable television.
The following is a graph from statista.com that predicts the market revenue in eSports by 2024 and the market revenue in the previous two years:
The eSports industry has been taking off. The eSports industry is expected to just break the billion-dollar mark in 2021 in terms of market revenue, and by 2024, it will be over halfway to the 2 billion marks, almost making it a multi-billion dollar industry. Considering the fact that eSports competitions really started to take off within the last 10 years, it’s astonishing to see how far eSports have come in such a short period of time.
One aspect of eSports that has significantly taken off is the number of Jobs and Scholarship Opportunities within the industry. In 2019 alone, there was a 185% increase in available jobs for eSports. This graph via esportsinsider.com does a great job at breaking down the jobs via location, and type of job:
There is a lot to take from this visual. What is important to note is that the # of jobs in eSports are not only rising in North America but around the world as well. Additionally, this industry seems to attract younger candidates for jobs, as most of the people working in eSports are between the ages of 18 and 24. Additionally, what stands out to me is that the number of full-time jobs increased by 12% between 2018 and 2019.
Not only have eSports seen a rise in job opportunities, but scholarship opportunities as well. One company that is doing this is called eFuse. eFuse is a company that connects eSports Players with different scholarship opportunities, and professional tournaments. Furthermore, the NCSA, a national website dedicated to eSports players connects them with the colleges that have competitive eSports teams, and scholarships available to them.
eSports are an industry that has seen so much success in a relatively short period of time. Although video games have been around for the last 50 years, it took until the 2010s to have the idea of video games being an actual competition for real money become a real thing. I look forward to seeing where the eSports Industry goes within the next 5-10 years, and how it shapes our future culture.