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The Overlooked Rise of eSports

It is Sunday night at the Olympic Park in Stratford. The stadium is filled with screaming fans. It is the finals of a popular game played by millions casually. But only the most elite make it this far. Two teams, both vying for the millions in prize money. But more importantly, both eyeing the grand trophy and all the glory that comes with it. The crowds are chanting their team’s name. The commentator’s voice is booming across the arena. Outside the stadium, millions of people are watching the game with bated breath through their devices across the world.

This sounds like the finale of an NBA tournament or the Super Bowl, but it’s actually the finale of Rocket League- a popular eSports game. The uninitiated might be confounded by this phrase. What is eSports?

eSports means electronic-sports. To put it more simply, it is competitive video gaming. Once considered a joke, the eSports industry is projected to become a billion dollar industry this year. Its players now make millions from both prize earnings, salaries, and brand deals.

How big is it becoming?

Photo by Robb McCormick Photography (www.robbmccormick.com)
Photo by Robb McCormick Photography (www.robbmccormick.com)

Many of these games have become part of pop culture without anyone realising. Games like Call of Duty, Fortnite and Counterstrike have become household names at this point. Even lesser mainstream games like League of Legends can pull in almost 93 million unique viewers in its 2018 Grand finals. That number triples the corresponding NBA finals viewers and almost rivals the Super Bowl viewership stats.

 

Who ’s involved?

The industry has already begun to attract celebrities with deep pockets. In December last year, rapper Drake invested in 100 Thieves, an organisation that fields teams in games like Call of Duty, Fortnite and League of Legends. But he is not alone in spotting this opportunity. Other high profile celebrities include Micheal Jordan, Steph Curry, and Scooter Braun.

Just like regular sports, the organisations who have invested in eSports make a ton of money on sponsorships and merchandise. Teams have signed major brands like Red Bull, Audi, and Coca Cola. While the 100 Thieves merchandise sells out almost an hour being stocked.

Yet despite all of this, many, especially those from traditional sports disapprove of eSports. Many disapprove of its “geeky” roots. They feel that eSports “athletes” just sit around and there’s no hard work involved. However, they don’t realise that eSports players often train online for twelve hours a day. The passion hasn’t changed, just the venue. Slowly but surely those eSport-skeptic voices are dying out. The money doesn’t lie. Esports is the future of entertainment, media, and sports.

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