ESL - IEM Katowice Poland

There's no doubt that the popularity of esports has soared in recent years. However, there is still some confusion over what the ‘sport’ actually is, or if indeed it is a sport at all. In our introduction, we look to clear up some of this confusion whilst also revealing just how monumental this phenomenon really is.

The official definition of esports or e-sports:
According to the Oxford English dictionary, an esport is 'A multiplayer video game played competitively for spectators, typically by professional gamers.'

Does it involve actual sport?
Esports do not necessarily involve the traditional images of physical activity and contact one might associate with sport nor does it just involve the gaming of traditional sports ie football, golf, basketball. Rather, esports can be likened to chess or even darts. Typically, esports encompasses anything from real-time strategy games to first-person shooter and multi-online battle arena (MOBA).

Which traditional sports organisations are already ahead of the game?
Many traditional sports organisations are fully involved in the world of esports already. Three of these major sports organisations that have embraced the convergence between esports and traditional sports are the Premier League, NBA and Formula 1. Esports leagues have been created in their respective sports, two of which are managed by the esports giant Gfinity.

Where did it all start?
It may seem like a new phenomenon but competition in gaming has been around for decades. In fact, the first “real” esports event was the 1997 Red Annihilation Quake tournament which saw 2000 participants battling it out for the grand prize of a Ferrari, donated by the lead developer of Quake.

What are the most popular games?
Some of the most popular games include League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 with tournament prize pools reaching as high as $20 million (E-sports Earnings).

How and where are they played?
Whilst arcade machines and games consoles have provided an element of electronic sports into our lives for many years, they're now readily available across multiple platforms including phone, tablet and computer. Competitions take place 24 hours a day between participants online from all over the world and are most commonly watched on streaming behemoth Twitch at over 15m streams per day.

What's in it for the professionals?
For the gamers competing at the highest level, tournaments are organised in arenas around the world in front of live audiences that reach tens of thousands of fans and further broadcast online to tens of millions of viewers. The winnings and associated salaries of some esports players can be substantial and some players are even treated as pro sports athletes with coaches, nutritionists in support of their performance. Becoming a professional esports gamer in many cases completely revolutionises their lifestyle with brands like Red Bull even detailing it in an online reality series.

Some facts about esports:

  • In 2017 ESL hosted the largest live attendance at the Katowice Intel® Extreme Masters World Championship in Poland, with more than 173,000 attendees (IEM). In addition to this, 46 million unique viewers watched online covering a total of 27.5 million hours watched.
  • Global audiences are expected to total 303 million by the end of 2019 and 600 million by the end of 2020.
  • When comprising media rights, streaming advertising, sponsorship and the consumer contribution to prize pots – PWC estimated the total revenue of esports in 2017 at $620 million. This total is forecast to reach $1.6 billion in 2022.
  • Gamers that play esports games and compete in tournaments are commonly known as 'cyberathletes'.
  • 22 percent of millennial males watch esports, which is the same amount that watch baseball (A.List).
  • Thomas Bach, The President of the International Olympic Committee, says esports are too violent to be part of the Olympics (BBC), however, esports will be included in the official sporting programme of the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
  • Large investments have allowed French football team Paris Saint-Germain to acquire top talent from around the world, dominate the French football league and compete against the best in the UEFA Champions league. PSG’s recent signing was a complete League of Legends esports team who live and train together in Berlin and play 14 hours per day.
  • Men and women can join the same teams and compete against each other in tournaments, however, there is still a large gender divide with fewer female players taking part in professional tournaments.
  • As the live spectacle of esports continues to draw in larger crowds, events have featured artists including Metallica, 30 Seconds to Mars and DJ Khalid. 2018 saw Universal Music Group and ESL, the world largest esports company, partner to create a label focused on developing artists who would see their music feature in games and through live events.
  • Toronto rapper and avid gamer, Drake, has joined forces with Justin Bieber's manager Scooter Braun to take ownership of their own esports brand, 100 Thieves. The LA-based lifestyle, apparel and esports brand was founded by Matthew ‘Nadeshot’ Haag, a former Call of Duty world champion.

It's safe to say that's an exciting time for esports with huge potential for further growth and we're looking forward to seeing what's next.