The Future of eSports
Bigger than soccer?
February 3, 2019, Bruno Jacobsen
In 2000, there were around 10 eSports tournaments happening around the globe. By 2016, that number had risen to more than 400. Soon, eSports is expected to become a multi-billion dollar business, with hundreds of millions of fans around the world.
The Future of eSports
A Growing Phenomenon
Even today, people are still debating whether playing computer games professionally should be considered a sport or not.
The truth is - it doesn't matter. According to the World Economic Forum, the global audience for eSports sits around 300 million fans. That's now officially enough people to render the question irrelevant. For all intents and purposes, eSports seems to be here to stay, attracting an ever-increasing number of players, viewers, advertisers, and support.
In fact, eSports has grown in popularity so much that it's prize pool has now surpassed that of many popular sports. According to Business Insider, the US Open (2017, tennis) had the largest prize pool of all sports, at around 50 million US dollars. In second place, sits "The International 2017," an eSports tournament for the popular game Dota 2. The prize? 24.7 million US dollars. That's more than the Indy 500 (13.1 million) or the Stanley Cup (7 million).
Increasing Institutional Support
Even if reluctantly, eSports seems to be gaining the support of official institutions too.
In an interview already half a decade ago, Riot Games eSports Manager Nick Allen confirmed that the US Government had, after some serious negotiation, recognized professional League of Legends players as athletes. This was a milestone, as it allowed them to enter the US under work visas, permitting them to stay for extended periods of time.
The Olympic Committee, too, is taking eSports more seriously. During the 2018 Asian Games, League of Legends appeared for a couple of days as a "demonstration sport." This was an important step towards official recognition of eSports as a sport by the International Olympic Committee. In fact, according to Forbes, we may even be seeing eSports as an Olympic sport as soon as Paris 2024.
And there's more.
Even universities and schools seem to be looking into this. Universities like Robert Morris University in Illinois or the University of California Irvine have apparently begun offering scholarships for members of their League of Legends college teams.
The momentum behind making eSports officially recognized across the board is an encouraging sign for its future.
But how, exactly, will its future look like?
A mobile future?
When we think of eSports, most of us usually think of a bunch of players sitting behind a personal computer screen.
But according to some, the future of eSports actually resides in mobile.
Indeed, it seems that most eports industry leaders are placing their bets on mobile. Companies like Supercell, with only 4 game titles, have reported almost 2 billion euros (2.29 billion US dollars) in 2017, and around 700 million euros (802 million US dollars) in profit.
With around 1.6 billion smartphones expected to be shipped in 2022, mobile presents the perfect opportunity for eSports to capture new players, draw in advertisers, and expand its reach.
However, some people doubt mobile is the answer. According to Michael Patcher, research analyst at Wedbush Securities, the size of mobile screens and the lack of proper controls makes it difficult to offer a (playing and watching) experience as good as computer screens do.
But while he admits that the number of mobile players will exceed that of computer or console players, it's unlikely we will see organized esport events such as the League of Legends Championship Series for mobile.
A bright future
Whether people will be playing on their mobiles or computers, watching games on Twitch comfortably from their couches or attending "mega-events," one thing is for sure. eSports, with a growing number of players and viewers, increasing revenues and popularity, and with an unprecedented easy of accessibility, allowing almost anyone to join (if they're willing to put in the sweat and tears), has what one can only assume is a very bright future.
Will it ever become an Olympic sport? As we said, only those who are skeptic of it seem to be worried about it.