Esports is growing at a 41.3% annually and, according to Newzoo report, this growth will transform the sphere into a $1.5 billion market by 2020, when about 300 million people will be watching eSports. And all that’s up from just $362 mln in 2017!
Today we’ll share some crazy facts that show the on times ridiculous magnitude of what’s happening in this sphere and explain why FiPME is so excited to be a part of it
But first, what’s esports?
Esports describes the world of competitive, organized video gaming and most commonly, takes the form of video game competitions between professional players who play individually or as teams. Usually, they play the multiplayer games and shooters that are popular with at-home gamers: Fortnite, League of Legends, Dota 2, Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, Overwatch, Madden NFL and so on. These gamers are watched and followed by millions of fans worldwide, who attend live events or tune in online through streaming platforms like Twitch. Platforms like Twitch allow viewers to watch as their favorite gamers play in real time, and this is typically where popular gamers build up their fandoms.
How it all began: from Stanford’s campus to FIFA world cup stadiums
While for many esports might seem like a new strange phenomenon that just popped out of the blue, actually, it all started back in the 1970s.
46 years ago on Stanford’s campus, computer science students saw a flyer tacked to bulletin boards that said: “The first ‘Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics’ will be held here, Wednesday 19 October, 20:00 hours. First prize will be a year’s subscription to “Rolling Stone”. The gala event will be reported by Stone Sports reporter Stewart Brand & photographed by Annie Liebowitz. Free Beer!”. And so, that’s when the first esports tournament took place!
Since then, many things have changed though. Esports championships now offer 7-figure prizes and are watched by hundreds of millions of people as the biggest stadiums of the world get sold out in a matter of seconds. The investment bank Goldman Sachs estimates that the global monthly audience for esports will reach 385 million by 2022, surpassing even the NFL in the U.S.
But in order to show how vivid the industry is, let us share the facts that would depict it better than any words:
#1. Exorbitant prizes
While conventional sports championships seem to have pretty good prizes — e.g. the Wimbledon’s $2,9 mln — most people feel these sums are well-deserved given that the athletes put their entire lives on the sport.
Well, it’s actually pretty much the same with esports athletes. Professional team’s members spend between 3 and 6 hours a day training in team practice during the regular season. And then each of them also spends the same amount of time honing their own individual skill set, which makes 12 hours total of training time a day. The only two differences between these two types of athletes are that esports gamers don’t sweat as much (who knows though!) and that some of their championships gain more eyeballs than the conventional sports events. No surprise that as a consequence, such championships’ prize pools tend to be bigger than those in the regular sports events.
For instance, Dota 2’s annual championship “The International” in 2016 counted $25 mln in prize money with 11 mln going to the winning team so that each of its 5 members received $2,2 mln. That’s a bigger prize than any “normal” sports championships granted to their winners that year.
#2. Even a more exorbitant number of viewers
In 2014, the League of Legends World Championship sold out the same stadium that the 2002 FIFA world cup took place in. 45k fans attended the stadium and some other 11 mln watched the live translation online.
“In 2014, the League of Legends World Championship sold out the same stadium that the 2002 FIFA world cup took place in. 45k fans attended the stadium and some other 11 mln watched the live translation online.”
In 2017, it took place in Beijing’s National Stadium that hosted the summer Olympic in 2008. This time, 91k tickets were sold in a matter of seconds with 106 mln people viewing the tournament online. To put it into a perspective: the super bowl final of the same year had 71k attendants and UEFA Championship League Final had just 66k. Who’s cooler now?
But esports is not only about centralized offline tournaments: streamings on times attract tons of attention, too.
Just for a comparison: in early 2018, Twitch even outstripped MNSBC and CNN in terms of peak concurrent viewership which had 885,000 and 783,000 respectively. The highest average concurrent viewership on Twitch stands at 1.1 million, for a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament hosted by ELEAGUE in January 2018. But tournament streamings are not the only hot thing at Twitch. The most followed streamer on Twitch — Ninja — has over 13 million followers and holds the non-tournament record of 635,000 viewers watching him playing Fortnite with Drake, Travis Scott, and Juju Smith-Schuster. Again, that’s close to the number of people watching CNN at its best times!
“In early 2018, Twitch outstripped MNSBC and CNN TV channels in terms of peak concurrent viewership — those had 885,000 and 783,000 respectively while Twitch had 1.1 mln.”
#3. Esports as a new discipline at the Olympics?
Even though the conventional sports community might not take the esports seriously or even scoffs at it — its insane success cannot go unnoticed. And in fact, it doesn’t: the International Olympic committee is now discussing whether esports should be included as a new discipline at the 2024 Olympics in Paris. And while this is still questionable, esports is already decided to be a medal event at the 2022 Asian Games.
#4. Governments and corporations stepping in: all for the gamers!
The esports fame spreads well beyond the gaming and sports community, reaching the parties involved in educating, regulating and fostering the growth of different industries.
Some governments now officially recognize esports gamers as athletes and treat them accordingly. For example, as early as in 2013, the U.S. government included esports contestants under the visa policy that allows professional athletes from other countries to visit for purposes of competition. The first such visa was awarded to a Canadian League of Legends star Danny “Shiphtur” Le.
However, the most condensed changes take place in Asia as that’s where at least a half of the esports community is.
On March 30th, 2016, the Japanese Ministry gave out their first athletic visas to esports players Ki Hon Han and Sang Ho Yun competing in Japan for League of Legends. The Japan Esports Federation lauded the Ministry of Justice’s decision, calling it “A historic event that officially recognizes professional eSports players as being equal in status to competitors in other sports.”
But Japan is well behind its neighbors — particularly, China, whose government is pretty serious about gaming. It has converted a whole city, Hangzhou, into an esports hub. So far, they’ve built a dedicated esports complex spanning 360k square meters — about 68 football fields — to host international esports tournaments and 14 other esports facilities are yet to be built: a theme park, an esports academy, an esports-themed hotel, and even a hospital specializing in treating players. This way, the city aims to attract more than 10,000 aspiring esports professionals and ¥1 billion RMB ($140 million) in tax revenues.
And this city will not be alone: Chinese IT giant Tencent Holdings, itself a game developer, agreed with the eastern city of Wuhu in May 2017 to transform the city into an esports hub, too.
Tencent is not the only giant to be deeply involved in esports, though. E-commerce powerhouse Alibaba Group Holding is also spreading its wings in esports through its subsidiary Alisports, operating the World Electronic Sports Games international tournament. Its 2018 season alone attracted 68,000 players from more than 126 countries with its top-tier prize pool of 5.5 million dollars. And these are just a few of the many corporations jumping on board.
Hong Kong is also following up too, trying to take a bigger bite of the billion-dollar industry. The government even has a specific section in their budget for developing esports. In 2018, for instance, this budget was $12,8 mln, half of which was dedicated for building a specialized venue for large-scale esports tournaments.
But the true mecca for esports is South Korea!
Esports in Korea is such a respected activity that the Korean ministry of culture, sports and tourism founded a new department called the Korean Esports Association to promote & regulate the new industry. So now, being a pro gamer in Korea is like being an NFL player in the US.
Moreover, esports as a form of entertainment is really wide-spread across the country’s population. An estimated 1 million South Koreans play esports games every day in PC cafes — or “PC bangs” how they call them. In these PC bangs, you can not only play video games but also eat or even take a nap. And interestingly — or sadly — research conducted by Japan’s Ministry of Health in 2007 revealed that thousands of people were actually living in these Internet Cafes to play games non-stop.
“1 million South Koreans play esports games every day in PC cafes, where one can not only play video games but also eat or even take a nap. Research conducted by Japan’s Ministry of Health in 2007 revealed that thousands of people were actually living in these Internet Cafes to play games non-stop.”
#5. Universities to take the action: are gamers their new football players?
At least 50 universities in the U.S. alone offer scholarships for gamers and 128 more assemble university teams to partake in tournaments. Overall, the number of post-secondary institutions offering esports scholarships has grown almost 5X throughout 2018. Does society still think gaming will ruin the kids’ future?
#6. Esports overtaking conventional sports: Manchester United to play League of Legends?
Esports is a magnet for all sorts of entities from governments to universities and it would be surprising if athletes themselves wouldn’t be interested in jumping on board.
Dutch football clubs PSV Eindhoven and Ajax have both dipped their toes into the cool waters of professional gaming, having signed an individual professional FIFA player and a full bunch of FIFA esports pro-gamers. Sporting Lisbon, Wolfsburg, FC Schalke, and Manchester City have also decided to enter the FIFA esports world.
Interestingly, while most regular sports teams tend to partake in the esports game genres that are relevant for their brand and expertize, some simply go after popular games that have nothing to do with their teams’ core specializations. For instance, FC Schalke purchased a League of Legends team “Elements”. The Golden State Warriors, the Houston Rockets and the Sacramento Kings have invested in League of Legends teams, too. This shows they see the true potential of these games and don’t want to miss out to take their niche in the sports of the future — good strategy!
There’s still a debate on whether to consider esports a “real” sport but let’s look at the numbers. Esports championships already raise full stadiums that host the Olympics, sell more tickets than international sports events like UEFA championship league, and provide the eAthletes with bigger 7-figure prizes than those of the loudest conventional sports championships as Wimbledon. We don’t need to squeeze esports into the existing classifications as it’s already bigger than it all. It is, in fact, a whole new story and deserves its own place.
While resembling the existing sports industry in its spectacularity and the ability for its fans to passively consume the content, it also brings in the best features of gaming — interactivity and digital omnipresence — creating an incredible mix that has won the hearts of millions worldwide. Moreover, esports is breaking the stereotypical gaming narrative, putting a whole new light on the concept of gaming and drawing in new seemingly unrelated entities into its world.
That’s why esports is not just a full-blown industry with amazing growth prospects. It’s a whole new cultural phenomenon and a perfect example of how a merger between technological progress, cultural environment, and traditional entertainment can open the doors for a completely new industry that would outperform the well-established entertainment industries in just several years.
And as now it’s a perfect time to jump in and explore the lucrative opportunities of this world — that’s exactly what FiPME is going to do!