E-sports: The Present and the Future?

In July 2017, the German city of Cologne hosted the ESL One e-sports tournament for 3 days. 16 teams from around the world, competed at the Lanxess Arena. But this wasn’t just gamers playing against each other in front of a hundred or so people. Rather, the venue hosted 45,000 spectators over the 3 days. Even more astonishing was that 180,000 people watched the stream online, and 30 million unique users followed it on social media.

The ESL One tournament broke all attendance records at the time for an e-sports event. That was almost 4 years ago now, and the world of e-sports has continually grown since. According to figures from NewZoo, a market research group, last year 435.9 million people around the world watched e-sports events. This was up 10% from the year before.

Simultaneously, worldwide revenues hit $947m in 2020, driven by sponsorship from multinational companies such as Coca-Cola and Nike. From these numbers, it is clear that e-sports have developed from a niche hobby to a professional sport, with fans all over the globe.

But it’s not just the number of people who watch e-sports events that are astounding; some of the biggest tournaments offer millions of pounds in prizes. Dota 2 International offered $34m in prize money and the Fortnite World Cup offered $30m, as of 2019.

The positive of the pandemic?

It’s understandable that those involved in e-sports can actually view the pandemic as a positive event. This is because as most physical, professional sports paused for a while, many fans and players turned to the virtual world to fill the void. As well as the growth in the number of players, there was a massive increase in sponsorship expenditure.

In addition, some football clubs have formed their own e-sport teams, such as Manchester City, where players compete in the popular game, FIFA. Man City, being one of the biggest football clubs in the world, feels that e-sports is here to stay. City partnered with FaZe Clan last year, a very prominent e-sports organisation, as well as playing host to an ePremier League qualifying event. As more and more clubs follow suit, e-sports is becoming a mainstream part of the sporting world.

Sport simulation games are not the only e-sport

For the many, not the few?

Sport simulation games are not the only e-sport. There are different types of games you can play, such as real-time strategy games and first-person shooters. The latter two tend to be the most popular worldwide, with titles such as League of Legends and Dota 2 among the most successful games. There’s a game for absolutely everyone!

The number of people across the globe watching e-sports is tipped by NewZoo to rise by a further 9% in 2021, to 474 million, with revenues up 15% to $1bn.

Then, by 2024, global viewership is expected to hit 577 million, with revenues upwards of $1.6bn.

The future is starting to look… virtual.

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