eSports: A Look into the Booming Industry

Playing video games is looked at as a “childish” activity by many, but the professional video gaming industry (eSports) is booming out of control and is far from childish. In this article, you will find exactly why eSports continues to grow each and every day and why there is so much noise around it. 2015 was a fantastic year for the eSports industry, so let’s take a look at a brief recap of some of the biggest moves this past year.

Biggest eSports Events in 2015

Heroes of the Storm appears on ESPN 2

Blizzard’s new MOBA held a collegiate event where top teams competed for a chance to earn a great prize. This event was the first televised Blizzard tournament, and it featured a game that wasn’t even released yet. Being on ESPN 2 was a big step for eSports, even if the biggest games and biggest players were not introduced to the unfamiliar viewers. This was a ground-breaking event for eSports.

heroes

Counter-Strike League to be nationally televised in 2016

Media giant, Turner Broadcasting, is planning an eSports league featuring Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Launched in partnership with talent agency WME | IMG, the league will broadcast the top teams around the globe. This upcoming league will be televised on TBS, home to premium live events such as the Major League Baseball postseason, occasional NBA games, and March Madness.

Big money investors make huge moves in professional League of Legends scene

This off-season for League of Legends has been a very unpredictable one. A number of teams have looked to sell their spot and re-brand. Team 8, Gambit Gaming, Dignitas EU and Team Coast have all changed hands, with some of those team sales bringing in a new generation of investors into eSports. New organization, Immortals, include investors like Nerdist founder Peter Levin, Allen Debevoise of Machinima, and Linkin Park, yes the band. NRG’s new owners are former Apple Executive Andy Miller and 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov—both of whom own stakes in the Sacramento Kings NBA team. Mark Cuban made an appearance at IEM San Jose, a smaller League of Legends event, and gave his approval on eSports and left a door open for a possible entrance in the future.

BBC Broadcasts League of Legends World Championship

The League of Legends World Championship is the most viewed eSports event of the year and this year the UK’s national broadcaster, BBC, showed the quarterfinals live from Wembley. It was available to 20 million people in the UK and opened up a future partnership as the BBC Three, which will be going fully online next year. A perfect match for eSports.

Twitch gets Bob Ross rights

Twitch created one of the biggest streaming stars when Bob Ross had his Joy of Painting series broadcast live on Twitch. This event was to celebrate the launch of Twitch Creative, which allows artists to broadcast their work. Twitch ran a marathon of every episode of the painter’s show. The Joy of Painting series had about 4.5 million viewers on Twitch, which isn’t bad for a 30 year old painting show. Everyone got another chance to see the creation of some happy little trees.

DraftKings and FanDuel enter eSports

1 day fantasy sports is also a booming industry that majority of my friends take part in, including myself. A few months ago, DraftKings added an “eSports” section where it allowed users to create a 1 day fantasy team of gamers. It primarily focused on the League of Legends World Championship, but it is still being used for events including IEM Cologne which is occurring this weekend. FanDuel also got into eSports by teaming up with AlphaDraft, which is a full on eSports version of these 1 day fantasy competitions. DraftKings also sponsored a hand full of professional League of Legends teams this year.

draftkings

The Money Side of eSports

Even though I only mentioned a few, there has been many ground-breaking events in the eSports industry this year. The question is, why are investors and companies coming into eSports? The answer is easy, it is a growing industry that has a very promising future. Let’s look into some statistics when it comes prize pools for players total money in the industry.

The StarCraft 2 World Championship winners earned themselves 1.6 million dollars this year. Earning more money than the winner of the Tour de France. The League of Legends World Championship winners earned themselves 2.1 million dollars for taking home the title. The largest prize pool is for the DOTA 2 World Championship. Here the winners took home a whopping 11 million dollars. That’s more money than the winner of the Masters golf tournament took home. As more money keeps piling into the eSports industry, these prize pools will continue to grow as well as the money professional players make throughout the year. Players contracts this year have already exceeded anything they have had in the past. Prize pools for events totaled nearly 100 million this year for eSports.

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The eSports industry toward the end of 2015 has been estimated at 748 million dollars. Sponsorships and advertising totaled 579 million dollars this year. The industry has been growing at an very abnormal rate the past couple of years as well. This industry has been projected to grow 30% over the next five years.  The eSports industry may very well be a billion dollar industry by the end of 2016 or early into 2017.

The eSports Audience

For any form of entertainment to be successful, there has to be an audience that wants to watch it. The viewership numbers continue to increase each year. In 2013, eSports brought in 71 million viewers. 2014 it jumped to 134 million viewers. 2015 has made another leap as viewers are now at an astounding 188 million. eSports viewership in increasing in a very big way, especially in Europe and North America. Pro players in North America and Europe are now becoming celebrities like the professional players in South Korea have been for years now.

The biggest platform that broadcasts eSports is Twitch.tv. Twitch was bought by Amazon in September of 2014 for 970 million dollars. There are over 100 million monthly visitors on Twitch. 16 billion minutes of gaming are watched each month. Let’s take a look at the League of Legends World Championship. It attracts the most viewers of any eSports event of the year. During the 2015 LoL World Championship, there was an all time high of 360 million hours of live eSports viewed. That number nearly doubled the 194 million hours from the 2014 World Championship. The unique viewer count for the 2015 final was 36 million which was 9 million more than the 27 million that tuned in for the 2014 final.

twitch facts

The LoL World Championship once again will attract more viewers than the World Series and possibly the NBA finals. The audience is there for eSports and it is strong. It has been studied and found that eSports viewers spend 1 to 4 hours a week watching their favorite eSports. If numbers continue this way for eSports, viewership number would overtake NFL viewers in 2020. eSports has a long way to go, but there is no doubt that it is on the rise and it has the fan base to continue its growth.

What Those Against eSports Really Want to Know: Why is eSports Successful?

It’s pretty simple actually why eSports has turned into a huge success. Watching the best of the best play a game at the highest level competing for money and fame is entertaining to watch. Just like any other sport in the world, eSports features humans competing to see who is the best at a given game. Making it into the NBA or NFL is difficult, likewise, is also very difficult to become a professional gamer. Many professional gamers eat, sleep, and play their game. You have to love the game you play and practice it more than 99% of the people playing it to become one of the elite players. It’s no different from traditional sports in that sense. People tune in to watch the the best players in the world. It just as simple as that. It’s very entertaining to watch someone play a game you love that is much better than you at it. Then viewers can take what they learned from watching the professionals and try to improve their own game.

eSports is continuing to grow larger and larger. Whether it’s the games, the viewers, the money, the sponsorships, the investors, it’s growing. It’s a legit business and those who fail to recognize the future of eSports and its existence is going to be left in the past.

By: Jeff “Gravy” Miskin