Gone are the days when playing video games were just confined to your bedroom. It has now become the ultimate dream profession. It’s a world that is consumed by lucrative sponsorships, multimillion-dollar prize pools and the best part is being treated like a real athlete who can make up to a million dollars per year.
Let’s get a quick overview: The gaming industry is cumulatively worth $75 billion (USD), which consists of the still fledgling niche esports industry, now worth an estimated $1.5 billion (USD). And as the gaming boom continues, so does the potentials for professional opportunities. You only have to look at the rising popularity of mobile gaming, which generated $39.6 billion in revenues in 2016. Within mobile gaming, most investors and analysts are of the thinking that there is a future where everyone with a phone and a few minutes on the train can be preparing for the big leagues.
But for now, competitive gaming is mostly limited to desktop computers. Where its popularity was previously primarily confined to Asian countries like South Korea has now been embraced by the rest of the world, including Russia, the U.S. and Australia, with many publishers, platforms and brands wanting to get involved. Why? Mostly because of the immense increase in viewership and participation over the years. In fact, 1.8 billion people play video games worldwide, but 300 million people tune into esports across the world, making it one of the most popular pastimes, rivaling even the mainstream ratings of ESPN.
To give you an idea of just how popular esports has become type in “lol” into Google and your number one hit won’t be “laughing out loud” but the game League of legends.
If you were wondering who the highest paid player in esports is, he’s what they call the Michael Jordan of gaming, the American professional gamer Saahil Arora, also known by his gaming nickname “UNiVeRsE,” who to date has earned almost $3 million (USD) via his work on the free-to-play multiplayer online game DotA (Defense of the Ancients).
In fact, DotA is responsible for opening the entire esports world. Developed back in 2002 by Kyle Sommer, who goes by the alias Eul, through a relationship with Blizzard’s Warcraft, the game broke the mold for esports, heralding a type of seriousness that wasn’t seen in the esports before.
DotA prize pools can now climb up to $20 million for teams that compete around the world. Often the biggest and most entertaining teams attract lucrative sponsorship deals with the likes of Coca-Cola, Intel, Nissan and Doritos. But there are many other types of games programmers can compete in such as the popular first-person shooter games like Counter Strike, Call of Duty and Halo.
What has become apparent is that people love to watch gaming as well, which plays a significant role in pro-gaming’s overall popularity. Esports events comfortably sell out large venues like the KeyArena in Seattle, Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Staples Center in Los Angeles and Madison Square Garden in New York.
A relatively new phenomenon courtesy of Amazon is the platform Twitch, which started in 2011. It goes up against the Google platform YouTube whom trades on big personalities like Nadeshot to SingSing to aggressively compete for viewers, but a watershed moment arrived recently when the high-profile rapper Drake broke Twitch records for most streamed views while playing the hugely popular Fortnite, reaping in an astonishing 650,000 views. Between April and October last year, players watched over 2.1 billion hours of content on both Twitch and YouTube.All sights now turn to a new market where celebrities can cash in on tying brands, sponsorship and endorsements to play video games. Most industry analysts are in agreement that esports are about to infiltrate the mainstream, taking with it pro gamers to a whole new level. According to the Los Angeles Times, “China’s richest man, Russia’s richest man and the U.S.’s fourth-richest man” are all connected to an esports team.
While the esports industry awaits the development of their own Super Bowl, Twitch, YouTube and DotA remain the main participants in a world that continue to bump up against the mainstream. If more celebrities like Drake continue to compete in the online world of esports, it’s only a matter of time until the rest of us take notice. Watch this space.