eSports is on the rise and running at an incredible pace. Most of us will have heard the term, but we may well view the industry as a bunch of ‘gamers’ earning money through YouTube sponsorship and playing FIFA into the early hours. However, eSports is probably not what you think it is.
What is eSports?
The distinction between Gaming and eSports is:
Gaming is about Participation.
eSports is about Fandom (people are watched and paid to play)
Another way to look at it, is that eSports create competitive gameplay, played by professionals and watched by fans. Gaming is simply playing and participating in the game.
Some eSports Facts and Information
eSports should be regarded as the niche of the gaming industry, but, and here’s the important bit, it doesn’t involve actual simulated sports, such as FIFA or any other simulated physical activity sports. Despite misunderstandings about the industry, it is growing exponentially every year, with hundreds of millions of fans supporting and watching live events. Some universities are offering scholarships to the best players and treating them like professional athletes. The prize money for one of the most popular eSports games in a recent event was $25 million; this is more than the prize fund of the Superbowl; similarly, Fortnite is a game that has taken over the world, with the prize fund for the professionals being more than the prize fund of Wimbledon!
In player to fan base mix, the industry can be viewed like this:
- Global Pro - Fewest Players, Many Viewers - Best players in world. Millions of dollars in prize money, six figure salaries, millions of viewers;
- Continental Pro - Few Players, Many Viewers - Best players on each continent. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money, five figure salaries, tens of thousands of viewers;
- National Pro - Low Player Numbers, Lots of Viewers - Best players in each country. Tens of thousands of dollars in prize money, thousands of viewers, few receive salaries;
- Aspiring Amateur - Moderate Player Numbers, Low Viewers - Skilled amateur players actively trying to climb the pyramid. Competitively orientated;
- Aware Amateur - High Player Numbers, Very Low Viewers - Unskilled amateurs competing casually. Socially orientated;
- Unaware Amateur - Many Players, No Viewers - Unaware of, uninterested or unable to access competitive gaming
Presently, most eSports are played on PC, but with other devices also being used, such as consoles, tablets and smart phones.
What games are classed as eSports?
As mentioned earlier in this blog, sports games are not actually regarded as eSports. Whilst FIFA has a massive player base, it has a very low viewership base, so whilst it’s one of the most popular games in the world for players, it does not fall into the genre of an eSport. Examples of the most popular eSports games include:
League of Legends, Call of Duty, Counter Strike, Fortnite and Street Fighter.
These games are further classified into ‘Red Blood’ and ‘Green Blood’ games. Red Blood is essentially a realistic shooting game, whereas Green Blood games are regarded as fantastical shooting games; in other words, whilst there is a shooting element, the so-called ‘kills’ do not include realistic simulated killing. This type of game particularly suits the Chinese market due to much stricter rules in this regard.
eSports participation looked like this in 2017:
[Game Genre/Participation %]
First-Person Shooter (FPS) 49%
Multi-Player Online Battle Arena (MOBA) 24%
Fighting Game 12%
There are more FPS eSports players than any other genre, accounting for 49% of players. Whilst MOBA games only account for 24% of eSports players, these games often have the highest spectator numbers. Simulated sports games fall within the ‘Other’ category.
How do I watch eSports?
The channels for watching eSports at home is going to grow rapidly over the coming years. At present, the home of eSports streaming is provided by Twitch (think YouTube but of the eSports world) with Twitch playing a massive part in the popularity of the industry. eSports games are identified based on audience size and there are other broadcasters, such as Facebook Live and YouTube Gaming, who are adding to the popularity of eSports Fandom. The likes of the BBC and BT Sport are playing catch up, so watch this space. For the hardcore fans, tournament finals are played in large stadia, and tickets are purchased in the same way as an ordinary sporting event, but are much cheaper.
Who plays and how do they compete?
There are already some very well-known eSports teams, such as Cloud 9, Fnatic, Newbee and Team Liquid, who are the most successful team of all time, having competed in nearly 1,600 tournaments and accumulating $28 million in prize money along the way. The differentiation between what we regard as an ordinary sports team, such as Manchester United, is that eSports teams compete in a wide variety of game types, whereas of course the aforementioned sports team only compete in football. It’s a serious thing, with players receiving help from nutritionists, physios and psychologists. The best players are signed by teams and can earn six figure salaries if competing at world level.
Competitions are run by the game Publishers or third-party promoters, such as ESL, NSE, Super League Gaming and Gfinity.
The key stakeholders in the eSports ecosystem includes, Festivals, Venues (stadia and studios), Matchmaking Platforms, Competition Infrastructure Organisations, Social and Professional Networks, Gaming Tools, Training Tools, the Betting Industry, Data, Marketing and Media Tech companies. It really is a multi-billion-dollar industry and one that a lot of businesses should be tapping into.
Despite many on-going commercial challenges, such as IP ownership; monitising assets; instability of leagues, tournaments and teams; and integrity (doping, cheat software, match-fixing) and governance, eSports is a growing phenomenon and is only going to get bigger, better and more advanced. There are concerns about health issues surrounding the gaming culture, however eSports can in fact promote good health and also give millions of people a sense of belonging when traditional physical sports really aren’t for them. Gaming is also proving to be an excellent outlet for people with autism or similar disabilities, as it allows them to be socially accepted and to excel in an arena that has never before existed.
eSports is growing and is here to stay. It’s no longer a virtual reality, and don’t be surprised to find yourself as a fan in a virtual world, supporting your favourite eSports team at some point in the eFuture.