It’s hard to fathom making an honest living from just being good at video games, but the truth is the industry was destined to head this way. Since the beginning of competitive multiplayer there have been competitions hosted for cold hard cash. I remember back in 2000 competing in a Perfect Dark 64 tournament at a local game retailer for a grand prize of $100 and a copy of the game, small potatoes right? Fast forward to today and we’re seeing sold out arenas filled with screaming fans and sponsored teams battling it out for millions of dollars and worldwide recognition.
The Origins of Professional Gaming
While gaming tournaments have been around since early times, the birth of eSports really took place in the 1990s when PC started making waves in the gaming industry. A tournament called Red Annihilation was held and gamers faced off in the first person shooter Quake, gunning for the prize of a Ferrari owned by the lead developer John Carmack. The success of this competition spawned the first major gaming league called the Cyberathlete Professional League. Prize winnings rose to $15,000 and they began covering genres ranging from arcade, sports, shooters and real time strategy. The industry snowballed from here, Starcraft: Brood Wars later released which cultivated a massive eSports following creating celebrities out of the competitors. The verdict was in, video games were competitive and people were willing to travel from around the world to see the best of the best duke it out.
A Global Phenomenon That Won’t Quit
Asia has been on the eSports train for a while, holding tournaments with seven figure prize winnings and attracting massive crowds. Games like League of Legends, Counter Strike Global Offensive and DOTA 2 are at the forefront and it continues to grow thanks to streaming services such as Twitch and the dedicated fans that tune in. More noticeably Korea has become an indomitable force in eSports after Starcraft began selling out stadiums through its popularity. Its gained so much traction that last year the Korean Olympic Committee officially named eSports a second-tier Olympic sport — yeah, it’s a big deal.
The US represents a smaller chunk of the eSports audience with only 19% of global viewership — in comparison, Asia clocks in at a whopping 44%. Why hasn’t US been more involved in this phenomenon? Well, actually they are. We’re only talking how many watch these events but US generates the most revenue in the world from hosting eSports with a 38% share, mainly due to how much is invested in these tournaments. Thanks to free-to-play titles like League of Legends and platforms such as Youtube to help push this agenda into the mainstream they have boasted sales from advertising, media, ticket sales, merchandise and sponsorships. Industry analysts expect the US to rake in $175 million by the end of this year. Ourgame International Holdings Ltd is looking to capitalize on this trend with plans to build an eSports stadium in Las Vegas. The same company purchased World Poker Tour last year for $35 million — their hopes are to do what tournament style play has done for poker worldwide and apply it to eSports, the potential is definitely there.
Click on through to Page 2 to find out about the massive tournament going on next month and COGconnected will be there.