Esports (electronic sports or “eSports”) has grown into an international sensation that draws billions in investments and viewership; casual video gamers have even become celebrities who earn seven-figure salaries and brand endorsement deals as a result of participating in these leagues and tournaments. But what exactly are eSports, and why have they become so popular?
The eSports industry is an expansive global ecosystem encompassing various stakeholders such as players, teams, sponsors, spectators, media outlets and others. Revenue in this space comes from several sources including sponsorships, digital revenues from in-game purchases as well as ticket sales for events and merchandise sales; media rights is rapidly becoming the industry’s primary revenue stream. Furthermore, employment opportunities exist throughout this field such as coaches, commentators roles or support roles such as commentating roles.
Although eSports may appear as an up-and-coming industry today, its roots can be traced back to the 1970s – before computers existed! Magnavox Odyssey was the first electronic game console to connect directly to television in 1972 allowing individuals to compete against one another on one screen at once; thus beginning competitive gaming.
As Internet and networking technology became more affordable in the late 90s, gaming clans began meeting regularly to compete against each other online – this lead to some of the earliest eSports leagues being formed – particularly in South Korea.
Esports has evolved into a multibillion-dollar industry worldwide and encompasses various games. Popular genres of eSports are multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBA), real-time strategy games (RTS) and first-person shooter games (FPS). ESports popularity is being propelled forward due to greater accessibility of high-quality computers and gaming software as well as faster broadband connections enabling livestreaming content streaming.
Professional gamers in eSports tend to be highly-paid professionals who compete against teams from around the globe in tournaments. Their career path resembles that of an athlete; however, it tends to move much more rapidly. Many start their gaming careers as young teenagers at 16 or 17 before transitioning from team to team over time.
Top eSports players often command high salaries and the industry generates significant revenues through streaming and merchandise sales. Unfortunately, the proliferation of free-to-watch eSports has created a challenging dynamic for traditional media companies. Consumers tend to eschew paying monthly subscription fees for access to eSports content, especially since many platforms such as YouTube offer it free. This has had an adverse effect on the profitability of some eSports broadcasters and forced some to find alternative means of financing their content creation process – for instance some teams now hire dedicated streamers in order to produce large volumes of video that generate significant ad revenues.