How Did it Start?
E-sports is short for electronic sports. The sport had its humble beginnings in 1972 at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory which hosted over 10 000 fans in what was dubbed the Spacewear Championship. The pioneer tournament which was covered by journalist Stewart Brand had prize money totalling some USD5000 .Things were quiet for the next two and a half decades. Then in 1998 things started happening. It started in South Korea. On 14 November of that year, a tournament of 16 top ranked players. At this stage, it had not yet achieved its current status as a world sport as the bulk of its audience was mostly made up of local South Koreans. During the first decade of the 21st century various leagues were set up in South Korea. An association called the Korea Esports Association (KeSPA) had been formed and it had established the Starcraft Proleague. By 2010 another league, the Global Starcraft 11 League (GSL) was running. It had over USD500 000 in total prize money. Today the format established by GSL is still favoured by many electronic sport associations.
Today, e-sports is a billion dollar industry (topped the USD 1 billion mark in 2019). This phenomenal growth has been in part due to big corporate sponsors like car makers Audi and Mercedes Benz. Other big names sponsoring esports include Red Bull and T-Mobile. Their support has helped turn these video games into professional sports and changed the lives of many people.
Which E Sports Genres are Played
There are many types and genres of video games played worldwide. Some of the more popular ones include Overwatch,Global Offensive, Counter Strike, League of Legends (LoL), First Person Shooter Multiplayer Games (FPS) , Online Battle Arena Video (MOBA s), Fighting Games and many more.
There is really no age limit imposed on who is allowed to play. Most players reach their peak whilst in their teens or early to mid-twenties. A good example is young Kyle Giersdorf who won the Fortnite World Cup at age 16 for which he pocketed USD3 million in prize money. Another young player, Syed Hassan became the player with the highest earnings in esports also at age16. The training schedules of electronic sport players is just as rigorous as for those players who play traditional sports, if not more so. Those who play professionally stick to strict routines and schedules during training and many have coaches and managers to assist with training and arrange trips and tournaments. Many observe strict diets (in electronic sports the most feared disease is arthritis which affects movement in the joints and thus impairs dexterity). As is the case in most traditional sports, performance enhancing drugs are banned in professional esports. Participants in professional tournaments are therefore subjected to drug tests just like professionals in traditional sports.
The US Federal Administration for example, now recognises professional esports players as professional athletes. One major consequence of this landmark decision is that any foreign player who wishes to play professional esports is required by law to acquire a US government work visa.
Popularity and Viewership
Most sports owe their existence and continued survival to their fans, and e–sports is no exception. Interest in video games continues to grow and reliable estimates put the total audience enjoying electronic sports in 2019 at more than 450million fans. This fantastic figure includes tickets sold at matches and those watching on electronic media at home. Even more astounding, a staggering 100plus million viewers worldwide tuned in to watch the League of Legends World Championships held in 2019. Other published statistics are equally revealing. According to some studies, esports gamers below the age of 30 spend nearly 4hours every week watching other people playing esport games online. This far outstrips the two and a quarter hours they spend watching TV coverage of the traditional sporting disciplines.
E-sports – Do they Pay?
For a sport that’s less than half a century old, e-sport certainly holds its own when it comes to prize money.The e-sports genre Dota 2 has grossed in excess of USD200 million in prize winnings since its inception. In second and third place respectively were Counter Strike:Global Offensive and Fortnite both topping USD80 million in cumulative prize money totals. However, looking at gross totals for the first six months of 2019 only the standings look somewhat reversed. During that six month period, Fortnite topped the least in prize money earnings grossing over USD14 million. In second place was Counter Strike:Global Offensive with USD8.6 million. Dota 2 came a close third with USD8.37 million. The figures speak for themselves, esports have certainly turned into real money spinners.
Do Esport Gamers Make Money?
The simple answer to this simple question is yes. Competitive gamers make money, some of them make lots of it. As is the case with traditional sports, much of the money that players or gamers earn comes from sponsorship deals made between esport teams and large corporate brands. As mentioned earlier, two major sponsors are Audi and Red Bull. Esport events also reap millions from advertising brands and from broadcasting deals with networks like ESPN. For gamers, straight salaries are low and in many cases the payment systems are not very transparent. The bulk comes from endorsement sponsorships and
for those who win regularly from price money.
Live streaming of esports games has been taken to previously unheard of levels. Live streaming online channels are used to stream live games straight into people’s homes. Esports have evolved from games watched predominantly by paying spectators who attended the venue of the tournament. Streaming websites like YouTube and Twitch provide this much sought after service. That live streaming is in great demand is shown by the fact that by 2020 there will be in excess of 220million regular viewers of esports watching from the comfort of their homes.
The last few decades have seen an upsurge in electronic sports and this trend is likely to continue in future.