Video Games, Consoles, and the Olympics – Rise of eSports
It all started back in 1972, when the first eSport event happened at the known-for-innovation Stanford University, from then on, the industry has witnessed a meteoric rise to become a billion-dollar industry, but in the shadows of other sport. The industry is set to reach a net worth of two billion dollars by 2020, a mere two years from now.
Video games have been around for more than 40 years now, but for what we see today as eSports, broadband and networking systems were needed. The 90s saw the rise of the World Wide Web, as well as the internet, which helped connect gamers from around the globe, making competitive gaming a possibility. This saw the rise of gaming companies such as Nintendo and Blockbuster, which then started sponsoring various tournaments.
In 1997, the Red Annihilation tournament for the formerly famous video game – ‘Quake’ was held. The tournament drew in about 2000 online participants and is widely regarded as the world’s first eSports event. Dennis ‘Thresh’ Fong, winner of Red Annihilation Tournament was mentioned in the Guinness World Book of Records for being the world’s first professional video game player.
In the same year, the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL), was founded – this saw bigger prize monies entering the sport. The CPL declared a prize money of $15000 for one of their tournaments in 1998. The start of the new millennium saw many major international tournaments breaking to the scene – the World Cyber Games and the Electronic Sports World Cup were some of the first tournaments, followed by Major League Gaming (MLG) in 2002. MLG is the largest eSports league today, as well as the most generous in awarding prize money.
Around the year 2010, Multiple Online Battle Arena (MOBA) was born. MOBA includes an online competition, where two teams battle against each other, to prove their supremacy in the particular game. One of the most popular MOBA game is DOTA 2. DOTA 2 is a game taken from the DOTA mod for Warcraft 3. Today, DOTA 2 is one of the most successful games in eSports, with events gathering viewership that runs into millions.
According to market intelligence provider Newzoo, the number of eSport spectators rose to 385 million (on a global scale) in 2017. eSports revenue is projected to hit 2 billion by 2020. Prize money is certainly comparable to other popular sports such as the National Basketball Association (NBA) with a prize pool of $13 million, the Golf Masters with $11 million and the Confederations Cup with $20 million. The International 2017, an eSports tournament exceeded all of them with a total prize pool of $24.7 million, many other tournaments too have a similar prize money, if not more.
The rise of Twitch TV – a channel dedicated solely to the streaming of video games can be accounted for increasing the reach of eSport. With more gamers streaming and earning money Twitch, which is a subsidiary of Amazon, has made gaming a profession. Its rise from 2015, till date, has made it the leading live streaming video service for video games in the United States, with a slight advantage over YouTube Gaming (the exclusive gaming subsidiary of YouTube). As of May 2018, it had 2.2 million broadcasters monthly and 15 million daily active users.
There is a possibility that eSports tournaments may be added to the 2024 Paris Olympics, for the time being, as a demonstration sport. eSport has already been added to the medal events at the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games. The 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games, saw eSports being taken in as a demonstration sport, which meant medals won in this sport would not be counted in the overall medal tally.
As far as the 2024 Olympics is concerned, talks between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International eSports Federation (IeSF) are in progress. with no conclusive result. Plans for the 2024 Olympics will start by mid-2019. But fans, as well as eSports pundits, are confident about eSports becoming an Olympic sport.
Though we are a long way from 2024, the eSports industry does not appear to be slowing down. There is a lot of debate over whether eSports should even be considered as a sport. ESPN President, John Skipper in 2014 dismissed all claims relating to ESPN screening eSports. He said, “It is not a sport, it is a competition. Chess is a competition. Checkers is a competition. I am mostly interested in doing a real sport.” International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has already stated that eSports are ‘contrary to Olympics rules and values of sport’.
Contrary to that argument eSport players need a high level of tactical understanding and constant practice to win a match, especially in strategy games like League of Legends and DOTA. Scientists at the German Sports University have conducted an extensive study on eSport players. The study demonstrates how players are exposed to physical strain which is similar to that faced by normal athletes. Studies have also shown that eSport athletes require highly efficient motor skills, as they may have to achieve up to 400 movements per minute on the keyboard and the mouse, four times as much as the average person.
This ongoing and seemingly never-ending debate finds no conclusion. Speaking at an eSports summit held at BAFTA’s London Headquarters (the venue itself, telling you how big a deal the summit was) in 2017, Chester King, founder and acting CEO of the British eSports Association, addressing the attendees said, “Others describe us as ‘the biggest niche in the world’. No, we’re not that. We are eSports.” King’s attitude is a somewhat repetitive trait in most gamers, where their love and commitment for the sport, till date, is fueled by nothing else but, immense passion and pride.
Featured Image Courtesy: Google Images/Wikipedia
Edited by: Tarush Dhume