Movers and SHAKERS
Can we really call videogamers professional athletes?
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He’s making about $300,000 a month, he has a fan base numbered in the millions, and he spends at least 12 hours a day playing on his computer. Tyler Blevins, better known by his Fortnite handle “Ninja”, is a superstar in the world of organized, competitive videogaming or eSports. eSports fans tune in via online streaming services to watch professional gamers like Ninja play their favorite videogames in real time. Certain tournaments can attract audiences in the tens of millions attending via live-streaming platforms like YouTube or Amazon’s Twitch to watch gamers compete for cash prizes of up to $25 million. The global appeal of this new form of entertainment has put eSports well on its way to becoming a billion-dollar industry this year. But can videogames really take market share away from traditional sports?
Viewership numbers are off the charts. It may seem like a strange concept to watch someone else play a videogame, but the appeal is undeniable. For example, the 2017 League of Legends World Championship generated $5.5 million in ticket sales and drew more than 80 million viewers, which is higher than the viewership for US professional baseball, soccer, and hockey finals. And this was only one of 588 major eSports events were held in 2017. In 2018, the same event had an even bigger crowd attracting almost 100 million viewers, which was just short of the Super Bowl’s viewership at 103 million. Unlike cricket or hockey, there is no cultural or geographic limit to the appeal of eSports making it difficult to assign an upper limit on the potential growth of this new industry.Can eSports crossover to the mainstream? Last year, when Shaun White won his third gold medal for men’s halfpipe at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics it was one of the most watched events at the games. However, it was not so long ago that snowboarding was just another fringe extreme sport born out of 90s counterculture. In the upcoming 2020 Olympic games, sport climbing and surfing will become welcome additions to the growing portfolio of events. Would it be so strange for eSports to one day become an Olympic event as well?
It’s not a real sport. Even by the most liberal definitions of sport, it’s a bit of a stretch to lump videogames in with basketball and hockey. There’s no doubt that eSports has gained rapid popularity, but are people really substituting traditional sports for eSports? Intuitively, it seems that traditional sports and eSports appeal to separate demographics. It makes more sense that growth in eSports would take its market share from the broader entertainment industry rather than from professional sports specifically.The biggest hurdle to being considered a real sport. Putting aside the debate of what constitutes a sport, there is a separate reason why the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has already rejected early proposals to include eSports the games. Thomas Bach, the President of the IOC, expressed that esports were simply too violent to be considered. This may sound hypocritical coming from Mr. Bach, who has an Olympic gold medal in fencing, but he reasons, “Of course every combat sport has its origins in a real fight among people. But sport is the civilized expression about this”. This may just be one hurdle too tall for eSports given guns and killing are a central component of the most popular games like Fortnite and Call of Duty.
Trending Hot. Activate, a technology and media consulting firm, estimates that in 2016 there were 270 million esports fans around the world, and projects that by 2020 that number will grow to 495 million. Indeed, the growth of this new industry has been explosive. eSports could easily become one of the most important trends in tech and media in the coming years.
With Viewership and Revenue Booming, Esports Set to Compete with Traditional Sports, Syracuse University, January 18, 2019
Esports Trends Report, GlobalWebIndex
Esports 'too violent' to be included in Olympics, BBC News, September, 4 2018
Activate Tech and Media Outlook 2017, Activate, October 25, 2018
Living The Stream, Elaine Teng, ESPN The Magazine, September 18, 2018
New York teen earns six figures from video games and related income, Peter Holley, The Washington Post, May 18, 2019
The Rise of Live-Streamer Style, Luke Winkie, The New York Times, April 25, 2019
What is eSports? A look at an explosive billion-dollar industry, AJ Willingham, CNN, August 27, 2018Here’s why esports can become a billion-dollar industry in 2019, Annie Pei, CNBC, January 21, 2019