In recent years, the eSports industry has truly cracked the mainstream as it has risen towards becoming an industry worth billions. In 2018, for example, the Overwatch League Grand Finals sold out the Barclays Centre in New York which has a capacity of 20,000. Furthermore, its financial power was evident in the $500,000 prize money pot for the FIFA eWorld Cup in 2019 which also garnered an enormous viewership of over 47 million. Even David Beckham has become a founding shareholder in an eSports team as reported by the Guardian, here. Here, we look at some of the main reasons behind the inexorable rise in popularity of eSports.
Technological advances and the subsequent rise in streaming services have made it easier than ever to spectate other players at high-quality resolution. Although in-person spectating has boomed, the convenience and ease with which users can watch a stream from anywhere in the world removes any sense of effort from the process.
Unlike traditional sports, eSports don’t have the same requirements in terms of supreme fitness levels or extraordinary physical attributes. This creates a sense of inclusiveness both in terms of the professional players as well as the amateurs who are able to play the same games as the streamers and relate on a similar level. The industry is also gender-inclusive with the numbers of female gamers, as reported by the BBC, outranking males in Asia as their numbers rose by 19% in 2019.
Although watching other players compete over a video game may be marked as an anti-social activity, this is perhaps an unfair association. Like other sports, engaging with eSports allows users to share in a mutual passion with like-minded people. Equally, users form connections with certain streamers in the same way as football or cricket fans, for instance, might have a favourite player.
Indeed, the importance of the social element in online gaming is apparent in the popularity of live casinos. Much like eSports, live casino games provide users with a space in which to play with others in a dynamic environment. Jackpot City, for example, offers a range of live casino games like blackjack, roulette and 3 card poker, coupled with a sign-up bonus for new players, as you can see at this link. This is further evidence of how the eSports and iGaming industry are using accessibility to encourage new players. Live casinos illustrate the way in which the popularity of eSports is deeply founded in its sense of community and social interactions.
Just like every other sport, people are drawn in by the prospect of highly-skilled players competing against each other. It is enticing to spectate games played at their highest possible level, especially when users have an appreciation for their difficulties and nuances having also played them. The controversies, the personalities, the tension and the drama are all part and parcel of eSports just as they are for all the other sports that people adore. Underdog stories emerge and rivalries begin to develop which all leads to greater engagement and increasing popularity through word-of-mouth.
It may take some time for eSports to gain the same level of general respect as traditional, physical sports but it is certainly well on its way to widespread recognition. Its emphasis on the joy of competition combined with its inclusiveness and accessibility has been a winning formula for the industry. As technology continues to advance rapidly and the level of immersion rises with it, the eSports industry is likely to continue to boom in popularity.