Not long ago, video gaming was considered the antithesis of sport. Many leaders, educators and especially parents abhorred the time that children spent with that game controller in their hand, never realizing that gaming would evolve into an entire interconnected industry rooted in competition and community.
Today, electronic sports — commonly referred to as esports — is a wildly popular activity enjoyed by people of all ages. Consisting of competitive video gaming, esports has opened new career possibilities and opportunities for those looking for an alternative to traditional sports.
What Is Esports?
When you compare traditional sports to esports, you will see that the similarities are striking. The key difference is that esports involve digital competitions, whereas traditional sports take place in-person —on the field, the court or the pitch, for example.
The concept of esports evolved from video game competitions and today, it involves organized competitive gaming between teams or individual players. According to Game Quitters, during an esports tournament, competitors vie for a cash prize. Much like traditional sports, esports has teams and top athletes, along with a fan base that rivals some of the most popular traditional sports in the world.
Evolution of Esports
When video game consoles were first developed in the 1980s, they were considered a children’s toy. Adults, however, quickly found them to be exciting and engaging, and soon, video gaming became a popular hobby and a national pastime in its own right.
The concept of esports is rooted in that hobbyist passion, but it elevates gaming to a new level. The idea of video gaming as sport quickly became appealing, and esports have exploded in recent years into a billion-dollar industry.
The concept of competitive video gaming has been around almost as long as games have existed. The first signs of interest in esports began in the 1980s, when individual, arcade-style video consoles started displaying high score lists. A video game at the local pizza parlor became a hub for competition, as players tried to achieve the coveted top score.
Throughout the 1990s, competitive gaming continued to grow, though it was not yet organized as a sport. While the first video game competitions were organized by Nintendo and hosted by video rental store Blockbuster in the early 1990s, it wasn’t until PC gaming came into its own that avid gamers started to see the potential of esports.
Emergence of Global Tournaments
At the dawn of the 20th century, as the power of the internet was reaching its full potential, it became clear that global gaming tournaments were possible. Throughout the early 2000s, countries like France and South Korea hosted global tournaments. In the United States in 2005, the Cyberathlete Professional League, or CPL, hosted a final competition in New York City that was broadcast on MTV, highlighting the general popularity of esports and proving its ability to compete against traditional sports for audience attention.
Esports in Today’s World
Interest in and demand for esports exponentially increased over the coming years. Today, esports is a powerhouse industry, worth more than $1 billion and drawing in millions of viewers to tournaments that are streamed across a variety of platforms. An estimated 380 million people worldwide tuned into an esports event in 2018. Corporate sponsors and community organizers recognize the economic draw of esports, further legitimizing this type of sport, both in the American psyche and on a global scale.
According to the Esports Observer, esports rely on a multi-faceted ecosystem consisting of game publishers, players and teams, tournament and league organizers, and sponsors and advertisers. In many cases, a tournament will be based on a single game — and, often, the tournament organizer is also the publisher of the game. Most tournaments involve a cash prize, allowing professional gamers to earn income for playing well while capitalizing on possible sponsorships.
In the esports world, success is often determined by earnings. These are some of the highest-earning esports teams in the world, according to Game Quitters:
- Team Liquid —This team has participated in more than 1,600 tournaments and raked in more than $33 million in winnings.
- Fnatic —This team has gone to more than 850 tournaments and earned more than $14 million.
- Natus Vincere —Having participated in more than 430 tournaments, Natus Vincere has earned more than $10 million.
- FaZe Clan —This team has traveled to nearly 300 tournaments and has already accrued more than $7.7 million in winnings.
Often referred to by their nicknames, the players in esports amass a following by live streaming as they game. These are some of the most famous esports players:
- Johan Sundstein (N0tail) —N0tail is a 29-year-old Dota 2 player from Denmark who ranks 1st in the world for esports.
- Jesse Vainikka (JerAx) —JerAx is a 31-year-old Dota 2 player from Finland who ranks 2nd globally in esports.
- Anathan Pham (ana) —ana is a 23-year-old Dota 2 player from Australia who has earned more than $6 million playing esports.
- Lee Sang-hyeok (Faker) —Faker is a 27-year-old League of Legends player from Korea who ranks 1st in his country and 83rd globally.
Hundreds of esports tournaments take place each year, bringing together gamers from different leagues and focusing on various games. These are some of the most widely-anticipated esports tournaments:
- The International —Known in the esports world as TI, The International is the largest Dota 2 tournament in the world, offering a prize pool of more than $40 million.
- Intel Extreme Masters —Famous for being the longest-running esports, Intel Extreme Masters brings together the world’s best gamers in games like Counter-Strike and Global Offensive.
- Capcom Cup —Capcom Cup is a tournament known for focusing on Street Fighter games, making it a popular choice among viewers.
Popular Esports Titles
These are a few of the most popular games and leagues within the esports world:
- League of Legends
- Dota 2
All those parents who told their kids nothing would come from playing video games might now regret it because there are many lucrative career opportunities within the ever-growing esports industry.
These are just a few of the esports careers that you can consider:
Becoming a professional gamer is a real career possibility. Professional gamers can make anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 per month, with the average gamer bringing in a salary of about $60,000 by winning tournaments and entering competitions.
Of course, those earnings can increase substantially when a gamer develops a social following, solicits brand partnerships, and allows for advertisements on their social channels. Companies seek out sponsorship opportunities with professional gamers that can provide gamers with a steady income as they continue to grow their fan base.
An esports coach is a professional gamer who wants to guide other gamers and manage a team of players. An esports coach may oversee a professional team or work with entry-level teams at colleges, universities and high schools. The coach’s responsibilities include creating and implementing a tournament strategy for the team, coordinating practices so that the team can improve their gaming skills, and working to get the team into the best tournaments for their preferred game or level. An esports coach makes an average salary of about $61,000 per year.
Viewership for esports tournaments continues to increase, fueling the demand for engaging and informative esports analysts, streamers, broadcasters and content creators. An esports streamer is a professional who broadcasts the tournaments as well as generates relevant content that interests esports enthusiasts. The salary will vary significantly based on an individual’s follower base.
If you have a love of coding and game design, the development side of the esports industry may suit you. Game developers work to create and design games that are immersive, engaging and interesting — with each developer hoping that their game is the next big thing in the world of esports. The global gaming market is expected to soar to new heights, possibly bringing in as much as $305 billion by 2025, so there will certainly be an increased need for qualified and experienced game developers. The average salary for a game developer is about $72,000 in the United States, but it can climb higher than $80,000 with more experience.
Similar to traditional sports stars, the most well-known esports players need agents to manage them. As an esports agent, you would work closely with your player client to craft their brand, coordinate their press opportunities, and secure endorsement deals. Most agents work on commission, and according to Influencer Marketing Hub, many of the best esports talent management agencies offer 10 percent commission rates for their agents. As a result, the salary for this position varies widely based on the type of esports players you represent and how successful they are.
For the most part, esports marketing professionals work for marketing firms that focus on this client base. They help to develop a brand identity for players, often managing their social platforms and ensuring that they put out consistent brand messaging aligned with the ideals of their sponsors.
Esports and Education
Like any other professional industry, getting into esports requires a combination of educational credentials and professional experience.
Collegiate and High School
Most esports professionals begin their careers thanks to a love of gaming, so they enter the industry with background knowledge and foundational skills. However, some of the more management-level esports positions, such as an esports agent, team manager, or marketing specialist, require a college education. Earning an online degree in sports administration can provide you with the information and skills needed to secure a coveted position in esports.
Business of Esports
In recent years, the number of esports viewers has steadily increased, leading to an explosion in revenue. Esports revenue grew from $463 million globally in 2016 to more than $1 billion globally in 2019. Esports revenue continues to rise as the number of teams, players and tournaments continue to increase. Sponsorships are increasingly lucrative, the fan base is becoming more devoted, and investors are finding that esports are here to stay.
Broadcasting and Streaming
Broadcasting and streaming can be attributed to the exponential growth of esports. Some of the platforms preferred by esports viewers include:
This is the largest streaming platform for gaming, allowing players to broadcast live as they play and develop their fan base. Twitch was founded in 2011 and is hands-down the preferred streaming option in the gaming community.
Created by Google, YouTube Gaming is a live gaming streaming platform that is similar to Twitch and has been steadily rising in popularity among the gaming crowd in recent years.
Future of Esports
It’s clear that the esports movement is here to stay and that this billion-dollar industry will only grow more relevant and popular over time. Industry professionals are even beginning to take esports more seriously, with some hosting tournaments alongside traditional sports. While the International Olympic Committee is not including esports as part of the 2024 Paris Olympics, they do host an Olympic Esports Series. Popular games like Fortnite have recently been added to the Olympic Esports Series, further legitimizing esports at the global level. It’s expected that in the future, esports will be included as part of the traditional Olympics celebrations.
Explore the World of Esports at Johnson & Wales University
If you are looking to launch a career in the esports industry, then the best thing you can do is kickstart your education with a degree program that caters to your interests while providing you with the skills you need to succeed. At Johnson & Wales University, we offer a Bachelor of Science – Sports, Entertainment, Event Management and a Master of Business Administration – Sports Leadership that could prepare you for an invigorating career in esports.
For more information about completing your degree online, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].