When I was in college in the early 1990s, friends would routinely stop by my room to see people playing Nintendo’s “Tecmo Super Bowl” – a video game where we would watch the exploits of a computer-generated Bo Jackson, Joe Montana, and other football heroes of the day.
People watching other people playing video games? Quite a few people thought we were crazy!
Fast forward to 2018. Twenty-five years later, people aren’t stopping by dorm rooms but they’re packing Los Angeles’ Staples Center and Madison Square Garden in New York to watch other people play video games — sometimes more than 15,000 people strong!
This growing phenomenon is called “eSports.”
What is eSports?
ESports is the term used to describe competitive video game playing. There are several platforms for this but the most popular one today is Riot Games’ League of Legends (and the League of Legends Championship Series), a fantasy-themed video game where teams of five players compete against one another. This isn’t just for fun – teams at the national and international levels compete for prize money, routinely more than one million dollars for the winning team.
Who does it attract?
You may not see a great deal of coverage on traditional television networks but that doesn’t mean people aren’t watching. Much like other professional sports leagues, both the regular season and championships are broadcast – but they’re streamed live using YouTube, Twitch, and other internet outlets. Big matches often reach more than a million viewers at a time. Other innovative business minds are taking notice of the eSports industry and several traditional sports franchises, including the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, and Cleveland Cavaliers, have bought franchises to compete in the North America League of Legends Championship Series. These franchises aren’t cheap, with the Warriors paying an estimated $13 million just to enter the league.
Will the trend last?
If you think this may just be a “flash in the pan” scenario, think again because these games aren’t going anywhere for now. The National Basketball Association has started its very own eSports league, called NBA 2K. They won’t be playing League of Legends, but rather a basketball video game created by Take-Two Interactive. As of this writing, 17 NBA teams will be competing in the league with more certain to come. This trend continues to grow with eSports leagues starting at the college levels. In addition, the NCAA is considering whether or not eSports should have a formal position within college sports.
Maybe my friends and I weren’t so crazy back then… because this exciting new industry is growing every day.
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