Did you know just how big the video gaming industry is?
In case you haven’t heard, there is an industry in which professional video gamers get paid to play video games. This industry is called Esports and it is huge. Like, a-worldwide-revenue-to-the-tune-of-$1.1-billion-in-2019 huge. It features millions of fans around the world, sold out arenas, sponsorships from brands like Audi and MasterCard, and huge tournament prizes. These tournaments are often even televised live on renowned channels in broadcast television, such as ESPN.
And to put the popularity of this industry even more into perspective: In 2013, the World Finals tournament of the massively popular video game League of Legends attracted 27 million viewers. This surpassed the viewership of the NBA Finals and World Series that year (Yes, you read that correctly). This begs the question: What has caused the meteoric rise of this industry?
But before we answer this:
First the basics: How does it work?
Each game, or Esport, has its own sport, meaning it has its own rules, objectives, players, and required skill to qualify as a legitimate professional. Video game developers typically work to boost their game’s Esports scene by bringing in sponsors and hosting tournaments. And they also pay the salary of the players. Esports is very similar to traditional sports in the sense that it uses similar tournament formats, player contracts, and regulations.
In 2019 the most popular Esport in the world was League of Legends (LoL), developed by Riot Games. LoL features five players on each team controlling a variety of characters that have different abilities and qualities. The goal is to push into the opposing team’s base and destroy it. So picture something like Stratego on steroids. And the game is designed in a way that makes it easy for fans to follow what’s going on online.
This game is one of the many Esports that hosts major international professional gaming tournaments. The primary method of generating income as a professional video gamer is by entering those tournaments as teams and players stand to make millions in prize money if they win them. For example, the biggest of them all, The International, is based on a game called Dota 2 and in 2018 it had a prize pool of more than $20 million.
So why this rise?
As was previously stated, Esports has become a multi-billion dollar industry. It employs not only gamers, but commentators, analysts, production crew, event organizers and so on. And as it spans every corner of the globe, its market is on track to continue to grow in the coming years as it continues to innovate and attract investment. So why this rise? The simple answer is: The spread of technology. Esports tournaments find their way to the computer screens of many fans around the world through streaming sites like YouTube. This makes the sport instantly and consistently available, breaking it loose from the limitations of traditional media like television sets.
Other ongoing developments that have contributed to its ascent to the top of the world include the success of mobile gaming (gaming apps on smartphones is also a huge market), and the success of the focus on professional gamers as brands. In South Korea, for example, you will regularly see the faces of professional video gamers and characters from certain Esports on soda cans and billboards on any given day.
So the next time you think your kid is wasting his future playing video games, think again!