When people think of sports, they think of equipment, sweat and a location. However, the fastest growing sport is esports, online competitive gaming. In recent years, esports has blown up and become the topic of much heated debate.
Esports took off in the early 2000s with the live-streaming of video game competitions. These competitions used to be between ameteur gamers, now take place among professional gamers. This has also led to the rise of esports leagues. While there are multiple leagues, the most popular league is Major League Gaming (MLG). MLG was founded in 2002 by Sundance DiGiovanni and Mike Sepso. While the founders may not be well known outside of the gaming world, a bigger and more famous part of MLG is Call of Duty. This was introduced into to the rotation of games played in MLG with the release of Black Ops 2.
With esports on the rise, more games are esports driven meaning that they are focused less on the regular consumer and more on the competitive aspect. A great example of this is Activision’s Blizzard release of Overwatch in May 2016. It’s so much about the competitive aspect that Overwatch even has its own league now called Overwatch League. Famous Twitch Streamers such as XQC, who plays for team Canada, can play in the Overwatch World Cup to win $1,000,000.
Although there are many reasons why esports has blown up, one of those reasons is because of Twitch, the famous live-streaming service. Multiple Twitch streamers are also competitive esports players and make millions of dollars from streaming and competitive sports. There are multiple other games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, Dota 2, and many more that gamers play competitively.
All of these factors have contributed to the abrupt rise of esports which is now almost a billion dollar business. According to World Economic Forum (WEF), esports accounts for 11% of viewership on major platforms such as YouTube and the previously mentioned Twitch. The global esports audience has around 380 million people worldwide with the most watched game being Dota 2.
As with many things that grow rapidly, esports has become the subject of controversy. It has become so big that people are trying to get it recognized as an Olympic sport. That is spawning a huge controversy. People argue that esports is not a sport; but, when the Olympic committee met back in October 2017 they acknowledged its rapid growth and talked about the issue. According to BBC, esports is set to be a medal event in the 2022 Asian Games. This huge recognition has spawned more serious talks about adding esports as a demonstration event in the 2024 Olympic Games.
Esports may not be traditional in terms of sporting events. But, its rise to global recognition has definitely made it a ‘sport’ worthy of watching.