The Expanding Popularity of eSports

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Kids that once had a knack for video games, preferring to spend their time mashing buttons on a controller, are now able to make an extremely impressive living doing exactly that. I’m talking about competitive gaming, or esports, an industry that has absolutely blasted off in the recent years.

Just like competitive sports, esports are professional video game competitions with millions of spectators from around the world. Gamers typically belong to well-practiced teams that have honed their skills down to the tee, competing with the best of the best. Games that are played include League of Legends, Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, Starcraft, Street Fighter, Overwatch, and a variety of others.

Just like real sports, esports makes money off of investments, advertising, media deals, and branding, and gamers are making big money. Take for example FaZe Clan, an American esports organization that competes in a variety of first-person and third-person shooters. The team was founded as a gaming clan on YouTube but has since grown to become the most popular esports organization in the world. As of this month, FaZe Clan has 70.5 million YouTube subscribers and an astounding 9.7 billion total views. Many members of FaZe Clan are multimillionaires due to their involvement in sports and competitive gaming. In fact, members of the clan reside in a multimillion-dollar mansion in the Hollywood Hills, tricked out exactly how you would expect a bunch of young twenty-something adults to do so.

So who actually wants to watch people play video games? Esports pulled in 258 million unique viewers in 2017 alone. To put this impressive achievement into perspective, the National Football League said that 204 million unique viewers tuned in to the 2016 regular season. The reason behind this surge in viewership is due to the popularity of streaming services like Twitch, a service capable of broadcasting video games sessions to thousands of viewers. Unlike recorded YouTube videos, Twitch allows viewers to watch their favorite gamers play in real time, and the service also allows the streamers to monetize their content.

By the year 2020, esports is predicted to become a multibillion industry, with the potential to pull in more unique viewers than any sports league broadcasted in the United States. Big companies are beginning to take notice as well. A partnership between Blizzard Entertainment and Disney will bring the Overwatch League competition to the Disney, ESPN, and ABC family of networks. Overwatch is a first-person shooter game developed by Blizzard Entertainment, the company behind some of most played video games of all-time, including World of Warcraft and Starcraft.

“We are turning the corner here in terms of our interest and engagement in the esports category,” ESPN Vice President of Digital Media Programming John Lasker said. “We’ve had an interest and have been watching pretty closely how the first year of the Overwatch League has been progressing, and we’re really excited to be a part of this. Clearly by the way we’re going to be covering it starting with the playoffs and the finals this year certainly speaks volumes to our excitement and our enthusiasm overall for esports moving forward.”

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