To many, video games have long been considered only a hobby. Yet the eSports industry has just come off its most profitable year of all time, reportedly bringing in US$1.5 billion. We spoke with Robin Ng (Head of Business and Publishing at Appguru Technology) about the rise of eSports and what the future holds for the burgeoning industry.
What are eSports?
“eSports is short for Electronics Sports. It is a term for competitive gameplay between players and teams in a video game. There are many types of eSports, the most competitive and popular types are Battle Royale, Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA), First Person Shooter (FPS), Card and Strategy. Typically, as long as it has some form of competitive gameplay, it can be considered an eSport”.
How long have eSports existed?
“The eSports industry has existed since early 2000’s. Players have been competing against each other on a global basis since the start of the millennium, but there was little emphasis to turn this into a sport.
It was only when the South Korean government started to mass build broadband networks that we saw a boom in popularity. The increase in broadband capabilities combined with record numbers of unemployment, led to many people turning to video games to fill their spare time. People started to train and practice full time, eventually competing for real prizes. Since, the media got wind of what was happening, it has simply gone from strength to strength. It’s now extremely popular across China, South Korea, America, Europe, and Southeast Asia”.
Why are eSports gaining popularity at what seems like an unstoppable rate?
“For me it’s no other reason aside from what has made other sports so popular. Fans see the fame, the prize money and the media attention. They want that too.
However many others have speculated that the tremendous rise of eSports has been in part thanks to its accessibility. Unlike traditional sports, you don’t need to be athletically gifted to succeed. This allows for many fans to believe that their chances to become a pro are much more achievable”.
How much can you win from an eSport tournament?
“The total prize money gained in 2016 was US$93 million. This is a far cry from the measly US$5 million total won in 2010”.
To put this into perspective, winnings from ‘The International’, one of eSports biggest competitions totals at US$20.8 million. This is almost double the payout for winning ‘The Masters’ golf tournament”.
How many people watch eSport tournaments compared to say the NFL or the English Premier League?
“The viewing numbers are very impressive. This year at an estimated 335 million, it more than doubles the number of viewers at the Super Bowl, showing the vast scale of popularity we are dealing with.
Thanks in large part to the vast array of streams over the internet these figures don’t look like they are going to reduce at any point. In fact, fans will go and watch these tournaments live as well as online, notably selling out the 40,000 seat world cup stadium in Seoul. While it is yet to reach the popularity of the English Premier League, there is a lot of room for it to grow to become one of the most watched sports around the world.”
How will franchising teams impact the eSports industry?
“This new trend of franchising teams is arguably one of the most important developments in recent years. As prices for a franchise total US$20 million, it’s a validation of the legitimacy of the industry as a whole, dispelling any worries or doubts that potential investors might have. It’s clear that investors are just beginning to realise the potential that this industry has, and are buying in accordingly.”
What are the upcoming industry trends in eSports?
“It’s clear to me that mobile eSports will grow to new heights. China seems to be the pioneer in this industry with an emerging professional scene, and millions of daily players across the country. This industry has recently seen a surge in development thanks to a substantial investment from Google.”
In your opinion will eSports ever overtake traditional sports?
“Rather than overtaking it, I think there is a strong likelihood that one day it will be able to stand side by side with traditional sports, in terms of popularity, players, and viewership. In some ways, eSports have already reached this point.”
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