eSports becoming a massive part of our lives and headline news seems inevitable when you consider the rise of competitive video games. It all goes back to the gaming industry progressing to become the multiplayer online battle arenas we see today. You can read here about how eSports has risen so far. Apparently, the inauguration of the President of the United States can’t compete with our wish to view the latest annual gaming tournament. But what have been the driving forces in elevating eSports to become such a huge part of the sporting industry?
Online Play and Superstars
Online play has obviously been the most significant factor in the rise of eSports. Many will remember a time when you were only able to compete with your friends or rivals if you happened be in the same room – and often a multitude of wires was necessary to connect games consoles together. With Xbox Live and other stages for competitive gaming, the landscape changed dramatically, as online multiplayer gaming created the platform for individuals and teams to become superstars of the gaming world. People such as Lee ‘Faker’ Sang-Hyeok and Lim Yo-Hwan ‘Boxer’ are getting the kind of endorsements and publicity that previously was only reserved for MVPs in American Football or English Premier League sensations. With nations of tech-savvy followers striving to emulate their success, the evolution of Starcraft and League of Legends players from gaming geeks to sporting goliaths has been fascinating to witness and should only become more prevalent in the future.
Sponsorship and Gambling
eSports took a major shift towards becoming big business, and more big brands are involved in sponsoring them too. For instance, mainstream sporting heavyweight and online casino provider Betway has become a sponsor of the Ninjas in Pyjamas team. It’s a significant step, as Betway clearly believe that the industry is going to grow and that it’s prudent and cost effective for them to be involved early on. For a company that also sponsors West Ham United in the English Premier League, it’s a significant endorsement that should open a few eyes to the massive potential eSports has to become a chief highlight on the sporting calendar. As well as the sponsorship of Ninjas in Pajamas, Betway are also one of the few online casinos to create an eSports sports book to allow wagers to be made on the latest matches. Given the relatively new emergence of the sport and the lack of expert analysis, eSports betting offers the opportunity for those in the know to use their knowledge of eSports to find value among the odds offered for each event.
As eSports moved from events being held in sports halls and ballrooms to selling out convention centres, game developers started to pay attention. Riot Games have been particularly wise in their approach to the eSports community by reaching out, investing, providing support and inviting players to contribute ideas through their Inside Design developer diaries. The efforts being made to create a dialogue between League of Legends gamers and the Riot Games’ developers is undoubtedly appreciated and their approach is in stark contrast to some other game developers, who have been engaged in lawsuits over copyrights and broadcasting revenues. Riot Games have shown the way forward for developers that wish to use eSports as a platform for the promotion of the products and it’s a tactic that will no doubt be adopted by other game development houses to ensure the mutual growth of eSports and their games’ popularity.
It’s been a whirlwind of evolution and progression for the eSports industry and some are worried about the speedy escalation of the sport, as they argue that big money has the potential to ruin competitive events. Yet with the legitimacy gained through organisations such as The International e-Sports Federation and the support of software developers, it’s a fascinating time to witness the surfacing of what has the potential to be the number one sport in the world.