- Esports is professional video gaming
- It is fast on its way to competing with traditional sports
- Experts believe online betting on esports will surpass $13bn in 2020
- There is a push to have esports included in the Olympics
What is esports?
Many experts believe that esports is fast on the way to overtaking traditional sports in popularity. With many major sports, such as American football, losing viewer numbers and not attracting a younger audience, esports is stepping in to take its place.
Young people now spend more time watching content creators and video game streamers than ever before. Video games are now becoming cool rather than being seen as a nerdy activity.
Professional video gaming is known as esports. It is rapidly becoming mainstream across the world, particularly in Southeast Asia and North America. Sports stadiums fill up with fans watching these events. The top players are earning any millions of dollars each year through prize money, streaming and, endorsement deals.
That’s why many traditional television networks are looking for opportunities in the space. They see the staggering daily viewership numbers for streaming sites such as Twitch and they want a piece of the action.
Massive growth ahead
This market is only going to get bigger. Many sports betting operators already offer some forms of sports betting. Experts now say that the gaming revenues for esports will be near the $13bn (£10bn) mark in 2020. The current level of global sports betting revenue is around the $250bn (£192bn) mark. The esports share of this figure in 2016 was $5.5bn (£4.2bn).
As the events get bigger and more sponsors enter the frame, this portion of the overall revenues is certain to increase. More and more operators will start to offer extensive markets in esports and give it the attention it deserves.
There is also an in-built sense of gambling within the esports world. Many platforms allow players to place wagers on themselves in competitive matches against opponents. Through these platforms, each player puts up money on a specific wager and the winner takes all after they play each other under certain rules.
Big money up for grabs
While a lot of traditional sports fans think the idea of professional video gaming as being ridiculous, those who fail to adapt will be left behind. The top players have skills that rival what you see on the court or the field.
Some of the esports events now have bigger prize pools than some of the leading tennis and golf events. For example, the 2018 International Dota 2 Championship in Vancouver offered more than $25m (£19m) in prize money. The top prize of $11.2m (£8.6m) was won by the European OG team, with its five players sharing the prize money. Dota 2 has some of the biggest prize money earners in esports. For example, the player KuroKy has $4m (£3.1m) in winnings to date. This is without including endorsements and streaming activities.
Viewership ever expanding
Esports viewership is growing exponentially year on year. In 2012, viewers numbered about 124 million. In 2017, that was up to 335 million, and it is expected to reach 557 million by 2021.
About 40% of those watching these events don’t even play the video game on view. They simply watch it for the competitive aspect. Naturally, the largest proportion of esports fans are in the 21- to 35-year-old age bracket, and 62% of the audience is male.
The two main streaming platforms currently are Twitch and YouTube. In the first quarter of 2017, users spent 33 million hours watching esports. Twitch accounts for 1.8% of the total traffic on the internet and has over 55 million users. It boasts a 43% share of the live streaming internet traffic.
On the horizon for esports is possible entrance into the Olympics. They are already included in the X Games. However, because the majority of esports games contain some aspect of fighting or shooting, the International Olympics Committee President resists the idea of esports becoming an Olympic event. However, it is going to be a medal sport in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
Many leading professional sports teams in the world now have esports interests and many owners of major sports teams also now have stakes in esports teams. Going forward, this sector is only going to get bigger, which promises a lot of opportunity for those who embrace it.