Esports is growing...and growing.

The latest success story in the world of video games involves a new fantasy world of esports where people engage in various forms of competitive video gaming. eSports differs from standard video gaming in that esports involves human-vs-human competition and includes a spectator element – similar to traditional sporting events.

eSports is a growing industry, just as the welcome bonus casino industry has grown over the past 25 years. Viewership is expected to grow 9% by 2023 with an increase in viewership  from 454 million in 2019 to 646 million.

What is esports and why has it become, in just a few years, a billion-dollar industry?

eSports

Esports is a form of sport competition that is played using video games.  Esports, also known as electronic sports, involves organized, multiplayer video game competitions including those between professional players, teams or individuals.

Esports originated in the 1970s. For years, competitions were organized as part of the video game culture.  Now, thanks to live streaming software, spectatorship and competitions between professional gamers have also become a part of the esports world. Today esports is a significant factor in the video game industry.  Many game designers develop and provide funding for esport tournaments and other sporting events.

The most common types of esports video games are those that involve first-person-shooter games, card games, fighting, real-time strategy, battle royales and multiplayer online battle arena games. There are tournaments that are organized so that  players can compete against one another as well as league play with sponsored teams.

The International Olympic Committee has even discussed including esports in future Olympic events though that doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon.

Growth

eSports is a growth industry. It’s fueled by online streaming media platforms such as Twitch and YouTube which make esports competitions more easily accessible to everyone. The popularity of esports is fueled by several factors including:

  1. It’s a sport. eSports competitions are considered a sport, just like any other sporting event. They’re easy to follow and, if you’re not a player, you can support a specific esports team or player. Fans can watch their favorite teams and players compete on a professional level. Thanks to online streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube it’s possible to tune in and watch at any time and from any location.
  2. Video games have become very accessible. You don’t need a lot of money to break into esports and the games can be played or viewed from the comfort of one’s own home. Esports competitions don’t require much investment, as opposed to other traditional sports that require equipment, organizations to run leagues and teams and space to play. Additionally, no physical ability is necessary to join or even to be successful. You don’t have to run, tackle, throw, kick, dribble or show any type of coordination. You don’t need a certain body size or build, speed, agility, strength or any other physical attributes.  All you need is an understanding of the game and the ability to make quick moves on the computer. If you can do that, you can be considered a “star athlete.”
  3. The games are diverse and there are many options of games to play or watch. The games include different varieties and complexities so you can find a game that fits your individual abilities and interests. 
  4. The quality of the video games has improved greatly over the last decade. The graphics are life-like and it’s easy to play and watch the games.
  5. Esports is a social activity. As opposed to the traditional way that people view video gaming – that of a computer nerd hunched over his computer in solitude --esports brings together friends both old and new. Players meet and connect with each other in interactive ways as they forge friendships in the virtual arena. In fact, most observers say that the social nature of esports is one of the main reasons that the industry has grown so much so fast. In addition, many eSports are team-based so players compete in tandem with teammates. Participants must coordinate and communicate with their team in order to win.

Traditional Sports

Officials involved in traditional sports have been supportive of esports.  "I think [NBA Commissioner] Adam Silver was way out in front," says Esports Commissioner Chris Greeley, "telling people [Esports] was going to be the next frontier we should be looking at. We should look at it early and often." Greeley says as a result, there are NBA owners in almost all LCS team ownership groups. 

Peter Guber, a part owner of several successful pro sports teams, including the NBA's Golden State Warriors and Major League Baseball's L.A. Dodgers, who has become involved in esports, told an esports competitor 'I want to win here too.'" Guber is an investor in aXiomatic Gaming and is the majority owner of Team Liquid. Another NBAer who is involved in esports is Michael Jordan who has invested $26 million.

Bridging the Gaps

Two entrepreneurs, Ariel Horn and Ben Kusin, are opening up esports to older people who may be wary of anything computer and technology-related.  To help close the gap, Horn and Kusin are launching a new TV network called VENN – Videogame Entertainment and News Network.

The network will offer esports 101 to introduce esports to newcomers.   Horn thinks of Venn as a TV Network for a streaming generation.  "We're inspired by MTV in the 1990's," he says, "a place where you could look in and see popular culture unfolding. MTV used music as a lens into pop culture. We think gaming is that transcendent, binding force."

Bringing women into esports is another goal. Greeley admits that his league doesn’t have any female players currently at either the professional and semi-pro levels. He admits that it’s hard to identify the problem.

"We're spending a lot of time with some of our high ranking women players, trying to get an understanding of, do you want to be pro? If you do and you're not making that step, what are the barriers there and how can we help remove those barriers so that you can pursue the passion you have, on a professional level."

Tricia Sugita has reached the highest level of management and was recently named the LCS team Flyquest’s CEO. Sugita is one of two women to run an LCS team and she wants to see more women play high level esports. "The physical barrier that usually creates disproportionality is almost non-existent," Sugita says.

"Muscle mass, vertical leap, things like that don't really mean much in League of Legends…..unfortunately, there's worse stigma for female gamers than for male gamers. Female gamers, as a general concept, are somehow still seen as uncommon or odd. There may be pressure coming from friends, family and even the gaming community at large."

Sugita is now trying to do what she can to get more women and girls involved in Esports. For one, she’s introducing clothes specifically for women.  "We did a whole line that were crop-tops, leggings, sports bras," she says, "and really embraced this female [merchandise] line.

And to really show people, look if you want to game and dress like this, that's awesome. And we want to create those opportunities. If you don't feel comfortable doing it, that's ok too. But the main thing we wanted to do is create more options for women."

Betting on eSports

Even the skeptics admit that esports has room for everyone. That includes gamblers. Industry insiders see betting as the single biggest opportunity in esports but, they say, as of yet, no one is taking advantage of the options. 

The one sector which is embracing esports betting is the online casino which sees esports as one of the fastest growing categories in online gambling. Analysts believe that esports betting will reach $8 billion in total wages this year and more than $16 billion in annual wagers in coming years.

The emergence of esports as a sport, and as a betting market, represents a new generation entering the fold. The traditional gambling world sees great potential in this generation that’s been born and bred on the internet. There’s opportunities for new investors, new operators, new ideas, new strategies and more. In short, it’s the development of sports and media for the coming generations and it’s just the beginning.

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