The Rise of eSports: How Video Games Became a Professional Sport
Gone are the days when sitting in front of a screen playing computer games was just an activity for teenagers. The rise of eSports has seen video games transform into a professional sport, with millions of dollars at stake for players and teams.
The growth of eSports has been nothing short of phenomenal. In 2002, the World Cyber Games, one of the first major international eSports tournaments, had just 174 participants. By 2019, the League of Legends World Championship, the largest eSports event in the world, had over 100 million viewers.
Professional eSports players can earn six or even seven figure salaries from a variety of sources, including prize money, sponsorships and advertising. In 2019, the top earning eSports player, Kyle Giersdorf, won $3 million in prize money alone.
Alongside the rise of eSports, traditional sports teams and owners have been investing in eSports franchises. NBA teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and Minnesota Timberwolves own eSport teams, while owners of NFL teams such as Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and Stan Kroenke of the LA Rams have also invested in eSports franchises.
The reasons for the rise of eSports are many. The popularity of video games has exploded in recent years, with games such as Fortnite, Call of Duty and League of Legends attracting millions of players. Streaming platforms such as Twitch and YouTube have made it easier than ever for fans to watch and interact with players, while advancements in technology and internet infrastructure have made online gaming more accessible to players all over the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also helped to accelerate the growth of eSports. With traditional sports leagues cancelled or postponed, fans and players have turned to eSports as an alternative. The NBA even organized its own eSports tournament featuring NBA players playing the NBA2K video game.
Despite its explosive growth, eSports still faces challenges in being recognized as a legitimate sport. Critics argue that sitting in front of a screen doesn’t require the same physical skill and effort as traditional sports like football or basketball. However, proponents of eSports argue that the mental and strategic elements of the game require just as much skill and training as traditional sports.
As for the future of eSports, the sky seems to be the limit. With the continued growth of gaming, improvements in technology and a new generation of fans growing up with video games, eSports is set to become an even bigger and more lucrative industry. Whether it will ever be recognized as a true sport remains to be seen, but for millions of fans and players, eSports is already a major part of their lives.