A $1.084 Billion Industry Esports Isn’t Just a Game

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Esports is a fast-growing industry, showing no signs of slowing down. For those in the know, it comes as no surprise that global esports revenues are projected to grow to over $1 billion in 2021. Yet, some people still don’t see the potential.

Even among gamers, not everyone understands esports. For those who aren’t taking a closer look, it can be easy to brush esports off as kids playing games. However, if you do take a closer look, it’s plain to see. This isn’t just a game. If you aren’t taking esports seriously, you should.

Here’s why.

A Global Industry

Photo by Vladislav Klapin on Unsplash

If you weren’t aware, esports is already a global industry! From the United States to China, esports is gaining popularity around the world. Of course, when you mention esports you can’t leave out South Korea. South Korea is a huge part of why esports has gotten so big — and they aren’t done yet.

Esports is also growing throughout Europe, with Germany and France leading in the number of active competitors. Don’t count Russia out though, where esports is officially recognized as a sport since 2016!

Brazil has also seen explosive growth in esports, with 2020 taking things to a new level. Oh, and if you haven’t heard, India has been having an esports craze as well. Really, it’s getting to the point that it would be easier to list the countries without esports enthusiasts.

So esports is all around the world, sure. But, how many people is that? How big of an audience does esports have?

496 Million and Counting

Between casual viewers and enthusiasts, the audience of esports reaches almost half a billion! With these numbers and rate of growth, it’s clear esports isn’t going away anytime soon.

A perfect example of the explosive popularity of esports is League of Legends. The 2019 World Championship finals had almost 100 million unique viewers watching online. These numbers are comparable to the Super Bowl, which in the past 5 years has averaged around 100 million viewers.

Still not convinced esports should be taken seriously?

Back in 2017, industry researchers at SuperData found that there was a bigger audience for gaming videos than the combined audiences of HBO, Netflix, ESPN, and Hulu. While this includes more than just esports, the numbers are simply staggering! Not to mention the growth since then.

And where such a huge audience goes, money follows.

Prize Pools + Investments

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Would you believe me if I told you the largest esports prize pools are millions of dollars? How about tens of millions. With the prize pool for Dota 2’s International 2019 sitting at a nice $34,330,069, you can see how seriously people are taking it. This isn’t just a game. This is a career, a way of life. It’s certainly life-changing money, to say the least.

Where does all this money come from though? Depending on the tournament, it could be from crowd-funding, the tournament organizer, or investments by the game developer. It doesn’t end there though. As it turns out, there are a lot of companies (and individuals) who would like to represent esports.

You’ve probably heard that Red Bull and Mountain Dew are esports sponsors. It isn’t just companies normally associated with gamers that are getting involved though.

Let’s list a few:

  • Comcast Xfinity
  • Intel
  • Honda
  • Coca-Cola
  • US Air Force
  • Disney’s Marvel
  • Mercedes Benz
  • BMW
  • Gucci
  • Nike
  • Google
  • Spotify

With all this support for esports, it becomes hard to argue that esports shouldn’t be taken seriously. If all these companies are taking it seriously enough to invest millions, I think I can safely say esports is here to stay.

A New Wave of Understanding

It isn’t just these sponsors who have a stake in esports taking it seriously. Schools are getting interested too, with more than 170 colleges and universities (in the US) participating as of January 2020!

The media seems to be taking it seriously as well, though some more than others. Here’s some of the sites who consider talking about esports to be worth their reader’s time:

  • NPR
  • ESPN
  • Washington Post
  • CNN
  • The New York Times
  • Fox News
  • USA Today
  • NBC News
  • Forbes
  • TIME

Go to any one of these sites, and you’ll be able to find multiple articles on esports. Now, if I had to guess… I’d say they aren’t writing these articles because esports is some fad. They’re writing them because esports is a big deal, even if you aren’t a gamer.

Let’s review:

  • Esports is a global industry
  • Esports is growing rapidly
  • Esports has a huge audience
  • Massive investments into esports have already been made
  • Big companies, colleges, and news sites are taking it seriously

So why is it that some people still view esports as just “kids playing video games”?

GIF via GIPHY

Unfortunately, no matter what you say, there will always be naysayers. Part of this is just a lack of understanding. As esports grows, and people begin to understand it more, I expect people’s views on esports to change.

Though esports is already a huge industry, it’s still going through some serious growing pains. It can seem unprofessional at times, even goofy. To some people, esports will bring the image of a lazy shut-in to mind. This image is something esports will have to overcome in the future.

Of course, the constant comparison to traditional sports can also cause some passionate arguments. Traditional sports can be easier to understand because of their physical nature. You don’t have to know the rules to know that throwing a ball really far or running really fast is impressive.

With esports, there can be more of a barrier to entry. Those not familiar with the game in question might not easily understand what is so impressive. They won’t understand how skilled a team is, or what strategies they’re employing.

As more people start talking about esports, these problems will gradually fade away. We live in a time where being a nerd or geek is a point of pride, no longer an insult. The world is changing fast, and so is esports (and gaming as a whole for that matter).

One thing is for certain though — esports 5 years from now will be a different beast entirely. Its explosive growth doesn’t look like it’s stopping anytime soon. If you weren’t paying attention to esports before, now is the time.

So, where do you think esports will go in 5 years?

Freelance Gaming Copywriter | Nerd who likes talking nonsense | Noob Dungeon Master