Today we live in a digital world, a fact backed up by the fact that mobile devices outnumber the amount of humans on earth. Almost everything we do in this day and age is moving towards digital, with entertainment being near the forefront.
Sports as a whole has found itself walking the digital path, and it is only growing from year to year. Goal-line technology has been introduced in football, while cricket, rugby and tennis all have their respective digital umpires. Perhaps a bigger threat to the traditional sporting enthusiasts is Esports (also known as eSports, e-sports, competitive gaming, electronic sports, or progaming in Korea), which removes the physical aspect of sports entirely.
For those unfamiliar with Esports, it pits two video game players in front of an audience and requires the gamers to play each other until there is a victor. This form of competition is now starting to generate massive audiences while the signs all point towards Esports becoming a major player in entertainment as the digital wave rises.
Video game competitions, however are nothing new. Nintendo held the World Championships for years in the early 90’s, but online gaming, and improved realistic feature in games, has really sent the Esports interest into the stratosphere.
Asia has been a major player bringing Esports into the spotlight. South Korea made coverage of various tournaments available to spectators using a streaming platform. The high internet speeds allowed viewers to watch uninterrupted while the images of these tournaments have led to higher demand in physical attendance, thus forcing promotors to use arena’s to host the competitions. World Cyber Games, one of the originals, started off with a bang in South Korea and China, and has since moved onto locations such as USA, Italy and Germany just to name a few. These tournaments are also used to promote new games, where the competition will revolve around gamers taking each other on over a newly released gaming product.
With increased popularity also comes attention from the previously uninterested traditional world. Twitch.tv took advantage by setting up a dedicated Esports streaming channel which has in turn made modest celebrities out of certain gamers.
Sponsorship has also jumped on the bandwagon. Energy drinks and computer hardware companies are among the biggest backers to sponsorship revenue. Online sports betting agencies are sitting up and taking attention, as Betway.com has set up its own Esports betting website. Betway isn’t the only online gaming site to take advantage of the gaming culture as MobileSlots.net has offered video game themed slots for over a decade in the shape of Hitman and Tomb Raider.
So Esports has managed to build itself as a highly sustainable business, but how seriously is it being taken by the traditional sporting fraternity? ESPN was asked whether it would ever consider broadcasting Esports, to which the president replied that he saw Esports as more of a ‘competition’ rather than a sport. Therefore it looks like it could take a significant amount of time before traditionalists are touting Esports as a potential Olympic addidtion, however the Esports industry has managed to accumulate a team of lawyers to ensure the legally secure future of the circus.
Audiences are so easily organised via the internet that the numbers just continue to grow, while feedback ensures that the events are always being updated and improved. The whole gaming landscape has been changed by Esports, as it has opened up another avenue for game sales which never existed.
Supporters of traditional sports are more likely to buy sporting equipment used by their heroes, while the same applies in the gaming world. Razer has released a special limited edition gaming controller used by competitors. Verizon, a large US telecommunications conglomerate, has announced that it will be shifting more focus towards Esports.
All the writing is on the wall that Esports is becoming a force to be reckoned with, and should viewer number surpass a certain figure, it will be hard for the traditional world to ignore it much longer.