Nope, it’s not a traditional sport by any stretch, nor is it high-stakes poker or any other form of gambling. It’s eSports, or professional video gaming, but you parents might call it “a waste of bloody time!”
That is, of course, until they see the amount of prize money that competition winners can rake in. Hint: it’s well into the millions. And with corporate sponsors investing millions into the industry, this is not a game…. Well, it is, but you know what I mean.
Fans can’t seem to get enough of it, selling out stadiums around the world to witness tournaments in the flesh, but the beauty of eSports is that it can be viewed online, spawning some big, fat dollar signs in the eyes of advertisers. The global eSports revenue is estimated to hit $1.9 billion by 2018.
The first known video game competition occurred on October 19, 1972, hosted at Stanford University. They played an archaic game called Spacewar for the grand prize of a year’s subscription to Rolling Stone magazine. Oh how times have changed.
Today, games like League of Legends, DOTA (Defence of the Ancients), Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and StarCraft make up the staples of the eSports industry, with thousands of people tuning in to watch the very best players around the world.
“A lot of people get like 20 thousand, 30 thousand, 40 thousand people watching them a night and when you’re doing that you get to basically run commercials and you get money off commercials,” says eSports athelete Hai Lam.
Players are able to earn money from salaries, merch sales, competition winnings, sponsors and online streaming, similar to the way YouTuber’s make money through monetisation of their content.
But it’s not all money and glory, these players have to train hard to maintain their skill. Really hard. They play the same video game for 10 – 12 hours a day, every day, with coaches, trainers and corporate sponsors riding their success. With big money being invested into these professional teams, investors want returns. Even Shaquille O’Neal has jumped on the bandwagon.
And if you needed any more convincing that eSports is a legitimately huge industry, there are now discussions around performance enhancing drugs and whether they should be banned after some players were caught using Adderall to increase reaction times. The future is here.
The rest of the video game industry? Yeah, that’s massive too.