What is eSports?
eSports has been around for roughly 40 years, starting off with the earliest recorded tournament of Spacewar at Stanford University in 1972. In more recent years, the catalyst to the massive growth of eSports has been down to the professional Starcraft scene in Korea, starting in roughly 2002. Since then it has blown up in popularity with the implementation of easier access to online gaming, massive venues and fans that are able to completely pack out the Maddison square garden venue.
In most sport tournaments, competitors battle it out against each other for prize money and for fame, teams that compete in eSports tournaments also compete for real money and fame, with prize pools getting bigger and bigger every year.
Professional gamers take their job seriously, with the majority of the top league teams having special gaming houses for them to live, work and relax in; all paid for by the sponsors or managers. The organisations have their own uniform, brand and management systems, some noticeable organisations such as Team Solo Mid (TSM), Fanatic (FNC) and SK Telecom (SKT) have multiple teams for different games, such as League of Legends, Counterstrike:go and Starcraft. The games that are currently receiving the most attention globally are League of Legends, Smite, Dota 2, CS:GO and Heroes of the storm. Other games that reside on console that remain popular in the scene are Battlefield and Call of duty, although PC games generally have a larger viewership.
League of Legends (LoL)
LoL is the most played free online multiplayer game, ever. The game involves a person controlling a “summoner” that controls a “champion” in game, there are currently over 120 unique champions in League of Legends. Each standard 5 versus 5 online game consists of 10 people split into 2 teams who compete against each other to strategically destroy the enemy base, also known as the “nexus”, this may sound simple but there is a lot of technical skill, practice and teamwork to play the game.
In a report published by Riot Games (creators and owners of League of Legends), the world championship series 2015 pulled in over 334 million unique viewers over the course of the 4 weeks it was being broadcasted online, this was an increase from the 288 million unique viewers in 2014. These impressive figures really do show how quickly this game is expanding, with regions such as Europe, North America, Korea and China being the biggest contributor of viewers. The prize pool for this tournament is equally as impressive, it was a staggering 2.1 million euros (approx.) with the winner taking home 1 million euros.
The overwhelmingly large proportion of viewers that watch eSports all watch the games online, using services such as Twitch.tv and YouTube’s newly launched live streaming service. The big debate whether it should be shown on national television is being discussed and some companies have decided to stream it on cable TV, such as the BBC deciding to show coverage of the 2015 league of legends world championship on BBC three sport and America’s TBS recently to show Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s weekly competition on cable TV. Although Riot Games’ Dustin Beck has stated that “TV’s not a priority or a goal” which shows how powerful internet broadcasts seem to be.
The Professional Gamers
Like Sports has its iconic legends such as Thierry Henry, David Beckham and Muhammed Ali, eSports stars also are beginning to be become idols to an extent. In countries such as Korea and China where gaming is so popular, even more so popular than traditional sports, it only fits that the major stars of the video games become the nations iconic figures to some avid fans.
We will take a look at Lee Sang-hyeok, better known for his stage name as Faker. How exactly did this 19 year old become a household name in Korea? Almost all professional gamers start by gaining the top spots of the online leaderboards in the respective games. This alone shows their dedication needed to reach the highest level where they are constantly competing against the best of the best. For Faker, it started off when he quickly rose to rank 1 in the Korean League of Legends leaderboards, which was astonishing for a 17 year old because of the amount of people and competition there is in Korea, which is currently the best nation in LoL. The team SK Telecom T1 signed Faker to start for their team and since then, he has won 2 world championships with SKT and recently decided to sign another contract with them going into the 2016 season.
His popularity and celebrity status in real life is growing with numbers of fans, sponsors and endorsements he has and it is no shock that many young gamers aspire to be just like him one day. Many of these young people do not see what goes on behind the scenes, more noticeably the amount of dedication that is needed to become a professional gamer while also being consistent at the highest level. Many top level League of Legends teams in the west have said that they practice around 10-11 hours a day and the teams in the east practice on average about 11-14 hours a day., which shows that being involved in the scene as a player, manager or staff member is very time consuming.
The average pro player has a career span of about 3 years, many go on to retire into full time online streaming where they play the game in front of viewers or find a management role in a team. Others that have extensive knowledge in a game consider joining broadcast production teams where they can become an analyst, commentator, etc.
When we look at how rapidly eSports has grown in the last decade, we should expect to see more and more coverage across all platforms: mobile, TV and on web browsers. The concept of eSports is still relatively new and unpredictable but as time goes in, we should expect to see more regulations and credibility put into the sport.
The future of eSports is only just getting started and as the previous statistics show, it is only going to keep growing with the massive investments put into teams, increasing numbers of fans and the credibility of it increase. it has become so big that some celebrities and athletes are buying into these organisations.
This article was written by London Management Centre (www.lmcuk.com) – they are a corporate training company based in London and offer corporate training courses at their London and Dubai offices on the topics of Leadership, management, human resources, interpersonal skills, media, PR, finance and many more subjects.