In 2000, esports was still a new word. Yes, video games were played by millions of people worldwide. However, video gaming competitions were held among amateurs on a local level, and could not be considered a worthy investment. Who could have thought that the esports industry would go through the roof and will be growing at 41% per year?
How Esports Became What It Is Today
The esports industry as it is now is a result of a boom in online gaming in South Korea at the beginning of the 2000s. The boom was catalyzed by the spread of public Internet access and an increase in unemployment. More and more South Koreans chose to play computer games during this period, and the popularity of online video games grew so much as to allow to organize competitions. Slowly, the number of competitions in Korea alone grew tenfold. A governmental comission was organized in order to manage the growing industry, and as many as three channels were dedicated to transmitting online competitions. The hitm game in Korea was StarCraft, which sold 4.5 million copies in South Korea alone.
Slowly but surely the esports competitions gained popularity in the West, with MOBA games like Dota that are now at the peak of their popularity. MOBA (massive online battle arenas) and MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role playing) games slowly replaced first person shooters and strategies in the competitions, due to the fact that entering a MOBA game requires a lesser number of skills and is sometimes absolutely free. The prize pools of competitions are very attractive to young people who now can pursue professional player careers. Some competitions prize pools of 18 million dollars.
The overall audience of professional gaming competitions is on a steady increase, from 115 million in 2015 to 194 million in 2017, with every esports fan spending an average of 50$ a year. By 2020, the audience is estimated to grow by 20% and constitute 303 million. The profit from the egaming business is now at 696 million dollars, and this figure has a 41% growth rate. This makes the esports industry attractive enough for investments from sources other than game development companies. The number of competitions also grew from 10 in 2000 to more than 260 nowadays.
What makes esports appealing is apparently the competitive side of it. Video games have evolved to be so complex and diverse that they require fine skills and extensive training to succeed in them. The competitive edge is tremendous, as players spend a lot of time and effort to become very good at what they do and beat everyone else at it. At this point, it starts looking as any other competitive sports out there. Almost everybody can play football; however, only the most skilled professional players do it so well that they can beat everyone else at it and participate in worldwide competitions. In many ways, Internet-gaming is a sport. There is even a debate going on around whether to recognize esports as an actual sport. The Olympic Games Committee of 2024 is considering including video games into their list.
In any case, the esports gaming industry is only getting started. The estimated figures from a NewZoo report suggest that it will grow to be a 1-billion-dollar industry, and will be gaining popularity in the years to come.