The Future of e-Sports

E-sports such as the competitive playing of video games are an activity that has been growing in popularity at a pretty fast pace over the last few years, even if they still remain somewhat obscure to the majority of the population – and certainly to fans of traditional sports. This article will take a look at what the future could hold for e-sports and whether they will gain further traction within the sporting mainstream.

There is no doubt that the world of e-sports is one that is expanding, but it remains some way behind traditional sports in terms of things like audience appeal and revenue at the moment. The games industry earns roughly $2.40 from a typical fan of e-sports each year – which is a rise from the previous estimate of $2.22 – but still well behind sports such as basketball that produce revenues of approximately $14 per person each year. However, despite this, there industry insiders who think it will at least match traditional sports’ appeal should the e-sports industry find the games to connect with audiences. They also argue that e-sports will need to develop local leagues that can serve as feeders for more national and global ones, as traditional sports have done, and that they need to move beyond the digital realm into traditional media – such as television. The construction of a new arena dedicated to e-sports in Las Vegas, called the Neonopolis, could be a real step towards this – as it offers greater appeal than seeing people play these sports at home. This arena opened at the beginning of March and the fact that Millennial E-sports felt confident enough to invest money in it is the clearest indication that they are on the rise.

With the news that global sports channels like ESPN – which broadcast coverage of Dota 2 and Heroes of the Storm – and TBS – which screened games of Counter Strike: Global Offensive live – are starting to explore the e-sports market, they may be correct to be confident. Their appeal to online audiences is already clear, with the platform for live streaming Twitch, which is where a lot of e-sports are viewed, getting over 100 million unique views per month. Suddenly the view of Peter Warman, who works for market research company Newzoo that e-sports could be even more popular than football within 10 years doesn’t seem quite so fanciful – especially with major UK sports clubs like West Ham beginning to explore e-sports link-ups. As the figures referred to at the start show, there is some way to go before this becomes reality, but younger generations are increasingly tech-focused, giving e-sports real appeal to them. One question that remains somewhat cloudy is whether playing these games competitively constitutes gambling. The lack of agreement on this issue means regulation is very light just now, but with prize money in the millions and huge sums being wagered by spectators, rules to address potential match fixing will surely be required. There is little difference between e-sports betting and gambling on a traditional sports contest, but the rules governing the former remain much laxer.

E-sports will almost certainly continue to grow in popularity and importance, but the regulations concerning gambling will need to keep pace with this.