The New Obsession: ESports

Clara Hopkins, Reporter

Every kid has had a dream once of playing video games for a living. Of course, in the 90s and early 2000s it was unrealistic to think you could actually make money by staring at a screen. But in recent years, that dream can become much more of a reality than anyone could’ve expected.

 

Professional gaming, or eSports, has grown immensely ever since the early 2000s. In 2016, the amount of revenue had grown by 51% – with the total amount being over $493 million. The number is expected to pass 1 billion by 2019, according to Newzoo.com. Esport events have sold out areas such as Madison Square Garden, Staples Center in LA, and Nationwide Arena in Columbus.

 

The target audience for eSports are young men. Newzoo.com estimates about 22% of American male millennials are avid watchers for eSports, which is about 148 million. Surprisingly, the same percentage watches baseball and hockey for that age demographic. Still, even though eSports have been growing rapidly over the past years, most people don’t consider it to be a sport.

 

Some ESPN newscasters are strongly against making eSports an actual sport. John Skipper and Colin Cowherd have argued against eSports multiple times, Cowherd once saying he’d quit if he was tasked to cover a gaming tournament.

 

Joanna Lambert, Sophomore, agrees with the ESPN newscasters. “I just don’t get it,” she remarks. “Of course it’s not a sport, there’s no physical activity involved.”

 

On the other side of the argument, pro gamers and athletes have a lot in common. Traveling for tournaments is one of them, which is the main reason why a petition was sent to the US Immigration government requesting an Athlete’s Visa. It passed eventually, and this is considered a big step forward for the eSports community. It will only be a matter of time before other countries follow suit.

 

Gamers also get their revenue the same way as some athletes do. They depend mainly on sponsorships and advertisements. Prize money only makes up a fraction of their yearly earnings, even when rewards can go up to $500,000. But unlike athletes, some pro gamers also stream.

 

Streaming is basically a casual way of watching eSports. Pro players are incredibly good at the games they play, so it’s fun watching them. Twitch.tv is the most popular streaming website. It even made the list for the Alexa list of the world’s most popular web pages, ranking #84 which was just one above the New York Times website.

 

Twitch has a policy if you want to start making money by streaming. You have to have at least 300 subscribers and you must stream at least three times a week. Ads and subscriptions are their main forms of revenue – subscriptions costing $5. Some of the more popular streamers such as pro players can earn up to $5,000 a week by subscriptions alone.

 

Along with making money through streaming, ads, and sponsorships, eSports teams can make alliances with real-life sports teams. The Miami Heat and a popular eSport team called Misfits have an agreement. When teaming up with big teams like the Miami Heat, Misfits can get more endorsements and expand their audience.

 

Although these teens can make millions off of gaming, the word “gaming” can still bring a bad taste to some people’s mouths. At the moment, the eSport scene is mainly dominated by young males. Video games are marketed more to a boy audience ever since they first came out. Sexism can be easily associated with gaming, but with every passing year, eSports have slowly started to see an increase in female audiences. Unfortunately, sponsorships and teams are focused on male gamers. The industry will not decline if no girl gamers are incorporated, but it will miss out on creating names for talented new female gamers. The eSports community might not be perfect yet, but little by little their ways are changing for the better.

 

The rise in eSports hasn’t only effected audiences, but it has also changed the way game developers want their game to be portrayed. Instead of focusing their game more around PvE (player vs environment) or campaign modes (story modes), they are more centered around PvP (player verses player).

 

Some rising stars for eSport gaming are Overwatch and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege. Both of these games are PvP first-person-shooters which are some of the more popular games in the eSport world. Another way that eSport communities grow is by using games that have a large following. Blizzard Entertainment is a famous game developing company in the gaming world, creating games like Starcraft II, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm, which are all eSport games. For example, Overwatch, a game made by Blizzard, has over 30 million copies sold. Being made by Blizzard and having all the qualities of a fun eSport game, its gain in popularity is rising very fast.

 

Pro gaming is a fast-growing new career path for teenagers and people in their early twenties. By having eSports grow in audience, new opportunities arise for people who thought gaming was just a hobby. Now, people with extraordinary aim and game sense can flex their skills in new competitions and tournaments for their favorite games. Although this seems unhealthy to some ESPN newscasters or anyone else opposed to the idea of making eSports considered a sport, just remember this: Those pro gamers are probably making more money than you.