eSports – Sport Redefined

If you don’t know what eSports are don’t feel bad it’s just now starting to break out of its niche. With the amount of money being tossed around in this market however, you’re going to hear about it soon enough. Video games specialising in player versus player (PVP) conflict that are packaged as both team competitions and spectator events are referred to as eSports. Watching someone else play a video game may not sound like a lot of fun but fans in many countries would disagree.

Riot Games co-founder Brandon Beck believes that the popularity of eSports could grow to the point where games like League of Legends are played at the Olympics. Speaking to GamesIndustry International at Gamescom, Beck discussed the flourishing pro-gaming scene around Riot’s free-to-play (F2P) hit League of Legends. Riot Games has established a “Championship Series” of eSports events, with prizes in the millions of dollars. According to Beck, the goal is to create “an ecosystem” where pro-gamers ambitions can become a reality.

“We don’t have our sights set on replacing soccer right now, but we definitely think that eSports has a place as a large, important, mainstream competitive activity,” he said. “I fundamentally believe that eSports will be an Olympic event in my lifetime.” However, to reach that point, Beck believes that the many industry companies now showing an interest in eSports need to back it up with commitment to creating a sustainable infrastructure for it to thrive. “It’s important for companies to not just say they’re excited about eSports, but to actually make commitments from a development standpoint and from a financial standpoint,” he said. “These players have to make a massive commitment to become pro-athletes, so there has to be a viable career path for that to grow into anything.”

After a strong start in the Quake era, the growth of eSports in Europe and the US was stalled by a combination of network issues, latency, pings, etc., and the fact that most games didn’t involve multiplayer. In countries like Korea, where the culture is built around Local area network (LAN) gaming in PC cafes, eSports have been very popular for many years, and the network infrastructure in other markets is now at a comparable level. For Beck, the demand has always been there, and the conditions are now right for a worldwide growth. “The innovation going forward in eSports is all going to be around the quality of broadcasts, the quality of live events, the quality of the leagues themselves.”

Not every game lends itself well to these types of events though. Massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) that include gladiatorial content such as Guild Wars 2, first person shooters like Halo, racing, and real-time strategy games are at the center of eSports activity. Gaming leagues are played at the amateur, semi-professional, and professional levels. As with other sporting events these contests are open to the public and in many cases televised and streamed via the Internet to fans around the world. The largest of these professional events are the World Cyber Games, Major League Gaming, Dreamhack, and the Global Starcraft 2 League.

These events sell tickets and a lot of them.

Blizzard Entertainment is also responsible for the Starcraft game franchise and its latest iteration Starcraft 2. This real-time strategy game is immensely popular all over the world, but in South Korea many players dedicate their lives too it. The finals for several Starcraft leagues have thousands of spectators in attendance and broadcast the event on T.V to millions of viewers. The gamers that win these tournaments are celebrities in South Korea and are adored by their many fans. Due to the total market domination in South Korea Starcraft is the most popular game being professionally played in the world.

Perhaps we are not far off from seeing the National eSports League broadcast the regular Monday night game. Like it or not eSports are here to stay. They will only get bigger with more market share with each new gaming generation.

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