GLITCH is our jointly-run column for all things technological, from deep explorations and commentary of the gaming industry to guides on building your own computer. Get your mouse poised and your hardware running to uncover the ever-shifting landscape of technology with writers Artiom Cvetkov and Chang Hui Tze!
Esports is competitive gaming where highly-skilled teams play in organized, multiplayer matches and it has joined the big leagues – having a larger audience than Major League Baseball. Generally each team consists of five main players, reserve players, coaches and team captains, along with other logistical and bureaucratic employees that maintain the teams as businesses – these teams compete against each other for large pools of money, and bragging rights, in tournaments that are sponsored either by game developers or organisations that specialise in facilitating such events, such as ESL. The popularity of eSports has been rapidly catching up to the viewership of conventional sporting events. For example, 2018 Wimbledon tournament had 9.44 million peak viewers, an international tournament for the game DOTA 2 of that same year, had garnered 15 million peak viewers.
Prior to the popularity boom of eSports, playing video games was frowned upon – the image of a sulky video gamer alone in his bedroom with a computer and three days’ worth of pizza boxes comes to mind. Now, eSports is a varsity sport and being the top of the game (no pun intended) can score you a scholarship at top universities worldwide. As the perception of being a student athlete changes, gaming has become more socially accepted & celebrated. As the eSports industry grows, we will see a substantial growth of the gaming community and the spread of popularity of gaming and watching games online – from ‘Let’s Play’ style videos to eSports.
While the industry seems simple on the surface, it is this unique ecosystem that has developed out of competitive gaming that makes eSports so interesting and one-of-a-kind. The ecosystem begins with teams, such as Fnatic or Cloud9, who play popular games such as League of Legends and Counter Strike: Global Offensive. These competitions are organised in leagues or tournaments by organisations such as ESL (Electronic Sports League), which in turn are distributed, in real time, to the audience and fans on various platforms such as the Twitch streaming platform. Since its popularity boom, eSports revenue has been on a trend of rapid growth. In 2012, the reported revenue was over £105 million, two years later that figure sat at almost £160 million. By 2017, revenue of the industry was at around £380 million and it is forecasted to surpass the billion milestone either this year or next year. The revenue is calculated from total game publisher investment, sponsorships, online advertising merchandise, licensing and tickets.
The economic impact of eSports can be observed by two measures, the first measure is the revenue of the industry, which we have discussed. The second measure is less direct and involves brands, advertisers, and investors. Just as one would see adverts for the latest Samsung TV on the side of a football pitch during a Champions League match, brands have been sweeping up the opportunity to pin their names next to the best gamers and teams as a move to expand their markets to a young and engaged audience. For example, Razer, a popular gaming hardware manufacturing company, invested £8.1 million to develop gaming and eSports in Singapore alone and they currently sponsor 10 eSports teams. Furthermore, game developing companies such as Blizzard and Valve use eSports as a means of marketing their games to an audience and building a community with the purpose of extended monetisation – game companies lose money directly through the tournaments, however the tournaments serve as a great opportunity to expand their market shares, thus allowing them to recuperate their temporary losses.
The explosive growth of eSports has shaken the world, influencing gamers and non-gamers from all walks of life. Whether people will be watching or taking part in eSports matches, we are confident that in the near future, eSports has the potential to become one of the most lucrative and popular sports. For now, us gamers can look back on how far we have come and amidst all the controversy, how the gaming community has significantly developed through the years. The mass popularity of gaming tournaments proves to the world that we can move past the image of a ‘lonely’ or ‘unsociable’ gamer, and start to take video games and all their associations seriously.
The GLITCH column is uniquely run by two fantastic writers and technology fanatics: second year historian Artiom Cvetkov and law student Chang Hui Tze, offering different perspectives on the subject.