eSports are on the Rise
The world's most exciting new sports scene is bigger and better than ever.
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When most people imagine sold out stadiums, fans wrapped around their TV’s, computers, and phones, watching and idolizing sweating “athletes,” and advertising highly influential sponsors, they picture basketball, or baseball, or football. However, eSports, a new and rising form of athletics, has all these things and much more. eSports athletes are headset-and-jersey wearing, energy-drink-guzzling gamers that make millions playing video games. The concept has been around for twenty years, since the first tournaments of eSports in the 90s. Back then, gamers played in front of dozens of people in hotel ballrooms. Now, they play grand finals in front of sold out stadiums, with twenty million more viewers watching online.
In 2014, the League of Legends Grand Final sold out the Staples Center, and, including online viewers across the world, hit 27 million viewers. Even when compared to the NBA Finals, which peaked at 15.5 million viewers and The Masters, which topped 24 million views, eSports is clearly wildly popular. These tournaments are huge publicity opportunities for sponsors. Some companies will sponsor a whole team, an individual player, or the whole league. These larger sponsors include Red Bull, Nissan, Coke, Logitech, Scuf Gaming, and G Fuel Energy Formula. These companies spend a lot of money to get their names and logos on headsets, commercials, and even the banners of highlight clips. This is identical to what ESPN does with every major professional sport.
Twitch is the ESPN of eSports. Twitch was bought by Amazon.com for $970 million, a deal that was finalized on September 25, 2014. Twitch was originally offered a Google deal, but it fell through, allowing Amazon to make the bid and close the deal. Forbes reported that Google had backed out of the deal due to potential antitrust concerns surrounding it and its existing ownership of YouTube. Most pro-players have YouTube channels, but this is to share their personal content. Twitch is the single biggest driving force for the sport. All the competition, from league play to the tournaments, is broadcast on Twitch.
Another reason eSports have become successful is because they aren’t just broadcasted. To prevent cheating and listening to the other teams, observers cannot hear the players play, nor see them. They only see the broadcasters, and a first person view of the players involved, similar to a professional sports game. Play-by-play commentators explain exactly what is going on in the match to whoever is watching. This is great for new players and watchers, because the “casters” will break everything down, just like a baseball or football announcer would do. It also makes it much more exciting and engaging for those watching.
Unlike most professional sports announcers who sometimes tend to be bland with facts and stats, the broadcasters are gamers themselves, and they love the game and relish the competition. When a big “play” happens, they find themselves just as fired up as the teams playing would. This can be seen in this clip, Call of Duty, where a viewer has put together the top 5 plays of the 2016 season.
Despite the “nerd” stereotypes surrounding these gamers, some are extremely fit athletic people who just love gaming. For example, Doug Martin, or FaZe Censor, as he is known on the internet, is a bodybuilder and gym junkie who promotes healthy eating and fitness in his YouTube videos while also being a professional Call of Duty player. Regardless of their outside lives; these players have mastered their craft. They picked something they loved to do as young kids and stuck with it just as anyone would do with a sport, music, or any other activity. The community of eSports is very passionate about what they do, and the audience and industry are only getting bigger.