The esports scene has been enjoying quite a surge in popularity this year, as the ongoing pandemic meant that there was more interest in online forms of entertainment. Esports has been steadily growing as an industry over the last few years, but it will surprise many people to know that it has been around since the 1970s, where the first competitions took place on black and white screens. Of course, the advent of high-speed internet, advanced computers and gaming consoles in the last two decades has been a huge boost to esports, bringing it into the mainstream and turning esports gaming tournaments into huge global events, with viewership figures running into the millions.
Of course, nowadays there are professional leagues and competitions, with multi-million dollar prize pools, and professional teams which compete in multiple events throughout the year. The increased popularity of the industry has seen a lot of investment come in as well, with even the big tech giants such as Facebook and Amazon looking to enter the market.
Grabyo’s At Home Video Trends report has found that since March 2020, digital video consumption has increased by a large amount, with more and more people spending time on online streaming websites. During this time, almost all live sports events around the world were suspended, meaning that esports became one of the only ways to provide a competitive entertainment experience to sports fans, as noted by online casino Winz. This had an impact on the online gambling industry as well, since operators began offering odds on some of these tournaments and virtual matches, in the absence of live sports action. At the same time, many sports players took part in various esports events – Formula One drivers were participating in virtual Grands Prix every weekend, with other celebrities and sportsmen from different sports joining them, for example. Footballers were facing off against each other on the FIFA video game rather than on the pitch, and it was the same story with NBA basketball players as well. In fact, EA and the Premier League came together to create the FIFA20 Stay and Play Cup, where online matches had commentators and hosts to create a similar atmosphere to watching a Premier League game. This proved to be extremely popular, with the tournament seeing over 1 million hours of cumulative watching time by fans on Twitch.
Esports simply accelerated its popularity this year, as it has already entered the wider entertainment business. A report by Marketing Hub found that the overall awareness about esports more than doubled between 2015 and 2019, and nearly 2 billion people will have heard of the industry by the end of this year. Games such as Fortnite, DOTA and Call of Duty have already entered popular culture, with their various features being hard to miss, especially during their launch weeks. At the same time, consoles have also become extremely popular, and a big part of the tech industry. The upcoming launch of the new Xbox and PlayStation consoles by Microsoft and Sony respectively is going to be a huge event globally.
Revenue in the esports industry is largely driven by sponsorships and advertising, and therefore it is important for the sector that more and more eyeballs are driven to it. This increase in revenues has also led to professionalisation of the sector, with dedicated Esports teams being created which compete professionally in events all over the world, throughout the year. These are also backed by sponsors, while many sports teams have also created their own esports teams to compete in such events. All of this shows just how popular the industry has become over the last few years, and points towards even more growth in the coming future.