The evolution of eSports or electronic sports has come a long way since its inception in the early 1970s but it was not until the last decade that eSports has truly proved itself to be a legitimate career option for both players and organizations alike. Gone are the days when hardcore gamers used to be perceived as basement dwellers, never coming out of their rooms and wasting their time on the computer rather than physical activities. Professional eSports athletes now earn hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions across various eSports events, sponsors, and salaries from their organizations. As eSports continues to grow in popularity and make its way further and further into the mainstream with televised events on channels like TBS, ESPN, MTV, etc. people’s and parent’s perceptions are changing regarding the eSports scene. A summit held by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in October 2017 acknowledged the growing popularity of eSports, concluding that “Competitive ‘eSports’ could be considered as a sporting activity.
During the 2010s, eSports grew tremendously, incurring a large increase in both viewership and prize money. Hitting the scene in 2011, Twitch gave eSports a platform to reach previously unthinkable heights. In 2013, viewers of the platform watched 12 billion minutes of video on the service, with the two most popular Twitch broadcasters being League of Legends and Dota 2. There are roughly 450 million total viewers of eSports today; however, that number is expected to surge over the next few years. Physical viewership of eSports competitions and the scope of events have increased in tandem with the growth of online viewership. The 2014 League of Legends World Championship in Seoul, South Korea, had over 40,000 fans in attendance and featured the band Imagine Dragons.
The most common video game genres associated with eSports are multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), first-person shooter (FPS), fighting, card, battle royale, and real-time strategy (RTS) games. The most popular games as of the early 2020s are Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Call of Duty, League of Legends, Dota 2, Smite, Rocket League, Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, Super Smash Bros. Melee, StarCraft II, and Overwatch.
The top eSports games hold their own tournaments all year round. League of Legends World Championships is an indicator of the growth of eSports as a spectator sport, the annual Dota 2 tournament The International is a testament to how massive the sport has become on the financial side. Counter-Strike holds their tournaments naming them Majors.
The International is the biggest eSports championship tournament on the financial side. It’s a tournament for the video game Dota 2, hosted and produced by the game’s developer, Valve. The first International was held in Cologne, Germany. It drew attention due to its $1.6 million prize, 16 teams were invited to play for the title. The International 2020 was originally scheduled to take place in Stockholm, Sweden from August 18th to 23rd, but was delayed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has a staggering prize pool of $40 million.
While the eSports industry in India is still at a nascent stage, its popularity has been on a steady rise over the past couple of years. The count of online gamers in India also grew by 31 per cent in 2019 and reached around 365 million. Indian eSports has accounted for around 4% of all online gaming users and 9.13% of aggregate revenue out of the overall online gaming market in FY20. With the entry of popular games like FIFA, PES, PUBG Mobile, Fortnite, Free Fire, and Valorant in the Indian eSports scene, the community has seen a substantial boost in revenue and workforce. And although PUBG has been banned, it is soon to return in the form of Battlegrounds India.
The eSports industry is already growing at a rapid pace and with the pandemic hitting the world and people needing to stay at home; eSports will only grow more in the coming years. It has already taken over many traditional sports in terms of viewership, prize pool wise and even in terms of physical attendance. While eSports may have once stood for a subset of sports culture, it has grown into a full industry in its own right. The future of eSports will likely be powered by mobile, which will further reduce barriers to entry and allow even more gamers and fans to pour in.
Visuals by: Kunal Kaustav Duwarah
Article by Pranjit Deka, The North-Eastern Chronicle