what is esports?


The world of competitive video gaming is a fast-growing international phenomenon with millions of fans and billions of dollars up for grabs. Streaming services and live events have turned casual gamers into serious stars who can sometimes rake in seven-figure earnings and massive brand endorsements.

What is eSports?
    eSports describes the world of competitive, organized video gaming. Competitors from different leagues or teams face off in the same games that are popular with at-home gamers: Fortnite, League of Legends, Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, Overwatch and Madden NFL, to name a few. These gamers are watched and followed by millions of fans all over the world, who attend live events or tune in on TV or online. Streaming services 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.
    Who watches eSports?

    Short answer? A lot of people. According to a report from Newzoo, a market analytics company, 380 million people worldwide will watch eSports this year, including 165 million eSports enthusiasts (a term that describes frequent viewers, as opposed to occasional viewers). The bulk of these enthusiasts watch from North America, China and South Korea.
    Tournaments and other events can attract viewing crowds that rival most traditional professional sports outings. The 2017 League of Legends World Championship drew more than 80 million viewers, making it one of the most popular eSports competitions ever. In July, ESPN and Disney XD announced they secured a multi-year deal to broadcast the Overwatch League, a brand-new international league with 12 franchises centered around the incredibly popular multiplayer first-person shooter came, Overwatch.
    According to research from Newzoo, 588 major esports events were held in 2017.
    Who plays eSports?


    The esports community is growing at a ridiculous rate. Gamers everywhere are embracing it, swarming to tournaments like moths to a flame. Viewers are tuning in also, making esports one of the most viewed sports out there. You might assume that the vast majority of hardcore gamers are single teenage boys and middle-aged men living in their parents’ basement. This is not the reality of esports. In fact, the demographics of esports are becoming more and more diverse all the time.


    When thinking of the sheer number of participants in the esports community, you have to consider a few things. First off, who is playing these games? How many men and women? How old are they? Do they have kids? What games are they playing? Which countries have the most esports participants? On the other end, who is watching? How many people are watching? What are they watching? Esports has grown into something big enough to bet on, like poker or any other game, and something big enough to award large sums of prize money to the winning teams. So who is betting? Where is this phenomenon most popular? Here are some numbers that will provide some insight and put into perspective just how large this community has become. We have a lot of ground to cover, so get ready.


    Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a clear majority of males in the esports community. When specifically looking at the most popular esports games, including League of Legends, Dota 2, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, statistics from EEDAR show that about 64% of the players are male. That is almost two thirds. However, these numbers are changing almost as fast as esports is growing. In fact, Oxent, a French esports company, is working hard to create a much larger female population in esports. But, the company will have a lot to overcome to achieve their goal. Just like in many other sports, women’s teams are frequently pushed aside and given less exposure (and pay) than men’s teams, despite being equally skilled. Female gamers in general also face a hostile environment from many that is only amplified by being in the public eye.

    What about the fans?

    Esports wouldn’t be anything close to what it is today if it weren’t for the millions of fans who follow these games, tournaments, and teams. Any avid gamer knows that there is a lot of value in watching other players to improve their own gameplay, but actually, most viewers watch simply to witness top-tier gaming at its finest. Gamers and gaming fans alike tune in to Twitch to watch elite gamers show their skills, and ultimately demonstrate how much room there is for glory and mastery in esports. So who is watching?


    A report from Eventbrite stated that, in overall esports viewership at events, a whopping 82% of players were male. A little over half (52%) were from the U.S., while the other 48% were from Europe. That’s 18% from Germany, 18% from the U.K., and the remaining 8% from various other European countries. 75% of these viewers were between the ages of 18 and 34, and 44% were college students. That’s a pretty wide range, even compared to other sports.

    Where’s the money in eSports?


    According to research from Newzoo, eSports revenue will reach $906 million worldwide in 2018. By 2019, that number is expected to surpass $1 billion.
    That’s a lucrative market, not only for the players, but for brands and video game producers as well. Madden 19, the game featured at the tournament in Jacksonville, is part of the long-running EA Madden Franchise. Since its inception nearly 30 years ago, the EA Madden Franchise has sold more than 130 million units, totaling more than $4 billion in revenue.
    eSports players, not unlike traditional athletes, can rake in big money: Tournaments can boast millions of dollars in prize money, which is typically split between the players on the winning teams. That means the world’s very tip-top players can easily earn seven figures in a year. Teams and event organizers also benefit from tickets sales for these competitions. That popular League of Legends tournament from 2017? It generated $5.5 million in ticket sales.
    Players also earn money from sponsorships, endorsements and league salaries. To that end, Newzoo reports brands will invest $694 million in eSports ventures this year alone.
    According to the numbers and the seemingly unstoppable cultural momentum, eSports will continue to grow as an industry — and a pastime — for the foreseeable future. By the end of 2018, 1.6 billion people will have some knowledge of eSports — that’s more than one fifth of the entire world’s population. So if you haven’t heard much about eSports yet, give it time. Its spread, both globally and culturally, is inevitable.

    Esports Prize Pools: $155.9M (2018)

    Esports prize pools have grown significantly in the past few years. What’s interesting is that these prize pools are now rivaling some of the largest prize pools in traditional sports. Below we take a look into how esports prize pools compare to traditional sports, and how they’ve grown.

    In the chart below, you will see the top 10 events, by prize pools, across all sports. Out of these ten, two of the top prize pools were in esports: The International 2018 (Dota 2) and League of Legends World Championship.

    Dota 2 isn’t the only esports title with an exorbitant prize pool. In 2018 the top 10 titles, based on prize pools, eclipsed $130M. What actually makes Dota 2 even more interesting is that the majority of the The International prize pool is crowdfunded. In 2018, the base prize pool was $1.6M. On top of that, $23.9M was crowdfunded by the community (i.e. donated by enthusiasts and fans).

    Esports are quickly carving out a global place for themselves as a viable and lucrative sport for gamers. The prize money being awarded certainly shows how seriously it’s being taken. It is becoming a highly aspirational career, with kids and young adults today being just as likely to dream of becoming a League of Legends star as a star baseball player.

    Esports prize pools continue to grow for the competitive scene of video games, currently mimicking the earnings of professional golfers and tennis players. This might not be the case in 10 years as high salary and multi-year contracts might become more common. However, today the professional esports athlete relies on tournament winnings, streaming, and sponsorship deals for their income. With this trajectory, esports prize pools and athlete compensation may quickly compete with the top traditional sports athletes in the not-so-distant future.

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