The Esports scene has exploded in popularity across the world in the past decade, and this exponential growth has resulted in a billion dollar industry. In 2022, the Esports industry was worth more than $1.38 billion, with the market expected to expand to $1.87 billion by 2025. It’s a far cry from the humble beginnings of the sport in the 1980s. The first Esports tournament took place in LA in 1980, with 10,000 gamers facing off in Atari’s Space Invaders Championship. Throughout the 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s, Esports was considered more of a hobby, receiving nowhere near the recognition and prestige of traditional sports. Today, the only professional sport with a larger global audience than Esports is American Football. How did this Esports transform itself from the outcast of the sport’s industry to a trendsetter?
Recent worldwide events have kept most people indoors and have stopped mass-gathering events, including physical sports. This presents Esports with a major advantage over traditional sports, considering their digital setup, which naturally increases accessibility. Many players are able to work from anywhere, and anyone from around the world is able to watch tournaments without concern for language barriers or logistics. Many Esports professionals are live streamers who use digital platforms like Twitch and Facebook Gaming to garner extra views and increase interactivity with their audience.
For those looking to participate in the Esports scene, there’s less barrier to entry, as there are no physical requirements needed to play—in fact, many with physical disabilities have found their way to a profession in the field. There is also the added benefit that most Esports games are free or affordable, such as Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, so many players have the opportunity to practice their skills and have a more immersive experience. All of these factors have encouraged more people to join the gaming community and in turn, contributed to Esports’ popularity and growth.
Social Media Influence
Media platforms have not only given people an opportunity to watch and engage with competitions, but also to discuss the various news and topics surrounding them. Our previous post talks about the impact of social media, and its ability to share information — which has brought greater self-involvement into sports. There are plenty of opportunities to share both positive and negative opinions through online platforms, which expands overall audience knowledge and increases their exposure to these games.
When it comes to social media interaction, brands often engage with their communities and even showcase a flair for humor in their posts. In the case of the popular game League of Legends, the brand often hosts art competitions with prizes, and publishes comics about their game characters. Esports broadcasters have also found methods to raise audience views by using social media to hype up events and tournaments. Through different types of promotion, a greater interest in the field has developed.
With the advent and increasingly widespread use of new technologies, it’s unsurprising that Esports is growing exponentially. The development of powerful mobile devices has helped mobile games to rise to primacy in the industry worldwide, representing 57% of the $173 billion global gaming market. Looking forward, increased interest and development of other advanced technologies like AR, VR and the metaverse have massive potential to transform Esports, expanding its reach and how it engages gamers. With big companies like Meta investing millions via affordable VR headsets to encourage the mass adoption of such interactive, immersive technology, more people than ever are dipping their toes into a virtual, interactive world. Esports may soon reach a new group of people who aren’t traditional gamers, moving non-gamers away from the stigma that Esports is not a “real sport.”
As an active video game player, I am hopeful about Esports’ future. There is no doubt that games coming out today are highly relatable and interactive, making them a great option to watch and learn about. This would eventually lead to more investors on the scene, further fueling this industry’s success.
With the versatility of the internet and technology, Esports continues to grow in popularity and revenue. The main factors that drive its growth are its high accessibility and engagement on social media. This has allowed gaming to be adopted into mainstream media and culture, which may well persist into the future.