Is E-Sports the Future of the Sport Industry?

WHAT IS E-SPORTS?

E-sports is officially sanctioned competitive video gaming in which professional gamers play popular video games in order to win competitions. Their gaming, done as individuals or in teams, can be displayed for a stadium full of cheering fans or enjoyed from your own couch through streaming platforms such as YouTube, Twitch, and Mixer. Originally coming on the scene in 2006, it is only in recent years that e-sport popularity has begun to grow, selling out stadiums and even being shown on TV.

WHY IS IT CONSIDERED A SPORT?

E-sports is changing the way that we think about sports and athletics. It is challenging the definition of what constitutes a sport. Is it athletic prowess that makes something a sport? The ability to compete? Having an official governing body? Having recognized leagues? E-sports checks every one of these boxes.

ATHLETIC PROWESS

You may have a preconceived image of what a gamer looks like, but e-sports is challenging that notion. Despite what you may think, gamers have to intensely train just like traditional athletes to ensure that they are at the top of their game. Professional gamers must work out in order to develop the muscles they use for gaming, , just as a traditional athlete trains his muscles to perform for the longevity of the game. This prevents muscle fatigue and cramping in the hands as they play for hours. These workouts combined with strict diets also help the gamer achieve total clarity, as their hand eye coordination and reflexes are critical skills that must remain sharp. It is also encouraged that gamers maintain proper posture in order to prevent injuries, such as carpal tunnel, that could affect their performance.

Gamers often attend training camps in order to improve upon their game, mainly studying strategies as a traditional athlete studies plays. These strategies serve to streamline their play and improve their tactics and approaches. There are, however, limits to the lengths e-sport athletes can go to improve upon their game. Gamers are often subjected to drug testing, just like professional athletes. This serves to level the playing field and ensure that no one is artificially enhancing their game.

ABILITY TO COMPETE

E-sports is competitive style gaming that takes place in tournaments. Stadiums are sold out when the top players perform. Some of these tournaments include: The International, Intel Extreme Masters, CS:GO Majors, Overwatch World Cup, Fortnite World Cup Finals, and Evolution Championship series. These tournaments are attended by pro gamers competing at the top of their field. The top pro gamer currently is Johan Sundstein of Denmark, who has earned almost $6.9 million in prize money from these competitions.

HAVING AN OFFICIAL GOVERNING BODY

The official governing body of e-sports is the World Esports Association, which oversees the happenings in the sport. This organization, founded in 2016 by industry leaders, sets the rules and regulations for e-sports. Just like traditional sports, e-sports is governed and must adhere to certain guidelines.

RECOGNIZED LEAGUES

The initial challenge of any new sport is receiving recognition, however, with a growing market e-sports’ place in athletics is becoming undeniable. There are hundreds of global competitions that thousands of people tune into all year long, but there are also e-sports a little closer to home. Colleges all across the nation are adding e-sport teams to their athletic programs and creating spaces for gamers. EKU has embraced the e-sport world by creating a space in the newly erected campus recreation center specifically for gamers, providing state of the art technology. Colleges nationwide are even beginning to offer gaming scholarships and recruit top players for their programs. E-sports is not only getting recognized in collegiate athletics though, the Olympics is even considering adding the sport for the best gamers countries have to offer to go head-to-head on a global stage.

THE IMPACT OF E-SPORTS

Why is e-sports being called the future of the sport industry? Future projections of viewership, monetary investments, and revenue rival professional and established sports. According to Business Insider reports, viewership for e-sports is projected between 2019-2023 to grow at a 9% compound annual growth rate. This means that viewership is projected to hit 646 million viewers in 2023, as opposed to the 454 million that tuned in throughout 2019. Through the popularity of streaming e-sports on platforms such as YouTube and Twitch, audiences are on track to nearly double over the next six years.

Private corporations are taking notice of the emerging market and putting their money where the numbers are. Monetary investments in e-sports continue to grow in accordance with the market, growing from $490 million in 2017 to $4.5 billion in 2018. These investments might also be in response to the revenue e-sports is bringing in. Revenues for e-sports are expected to pass $1 billion this year and are projected to hit $1.8 billion in 2022. This is earned primarily through sponsorships and advertising, which account for more than half of the revenue. Revenue is also being generated through media rights, ticket sales, merchandise sales, and in-game purchases.

“At a time when many leagues will look to find more creative ways to interact with their fans, e-sports may have that chance to gain some market penetration. We are already seeing professional sports teams and NASCAR use e-sports as part of their alternative entertainment during the coronavirus pandemic,” says Dr. Joel Cormier, the program coordinator for the EKU Online sport management program.

E-sports is evolving from a niche market to mainstream media, rivaling established professional athletics. We will surely continue to wrestle with whether or not e-sports fits the definition of sport, but one thing is certain: No longer is gaming exclusively a leisure activity to pass the time, it is becoming a way of life with a large following and we have come a long way from the local arcade.

Published on May 13, 2020