For many, gaming is a way of blowing off steam. While beating your opponents is the aim, it’s mainly about having fun and enjoying a challenge with mates or other players online.
However, for the most competitive of individuals, gaming is a serious way of life, a sport and perhaps even their main source of income. These players are hungry to be crowned the best of the best and to be rewarded for their commitment to the game with fame and money.
This is where the term esports comes from. Esports is the collective term for organised, professional online gaming. Popular games turned into competitions include first-person shooters like Call of Duty and Counter-Strike or fantasy battle games such as League of Legends, Dota 2 and Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. Racing games like iRacing and Project CARS are also popular in the esports world.
Money making opportunities aren’t just for the game competitors and esports organisers, many fans take part in esports betting. This adds another element of enjoyment and thrill to watching gameplay out online. Audiences can place bets with bookies, just as they would when watching traditional sports.
Esports betters watch the games they bet on play out on streaming websites like Twitch or YouTube. Whereas, those betting on traditional sports watch the game either at the stadium or on television. Popular traditional sports betting options in the USA are the NBAs or the NFL.
The betting industry is huge and rapidly growing. While it is difficult to get a complete understanding of its popularity due to the lack of regulation in some parts of the world, it is believed that betting accounts for between 30 and 40 percent of the global gambling market. This includes all forms of betting, with esports and sports being some of the top forms of betting.
Sports betting is now becoming big in the USA
Recent changes in legislation in parts of America has made betting on sports and esports more accessible. For example, in the state of Pennsylvania, sports betting finally became legal in 2018 and online sports wagering was allowed to begin a year later. This means that anyone over the age of 21 can now place a bet in the state.
In PA, online sports betting took $1.49 billion US dollars in sports bets last year. In terms of revenue, Pennsylvania is beaten only by two other states – New Jersey and of course Nevada, the home of Sin City. This shows how countries like the US are beginning to change their approach to sports betting, rather continuing to outlaw it they are implementing legislation and bringing in gambling taxation.
Esports as an industry is also growing…
Research has shown that around 380 million people around the world watch and engage in esports. The majority of these people are from countries such as the USA, China, South Korea or the United Kingdom.
Some esports tournaments have developed a huge fan base with incredibly high viewing figures. For example, in 2017 the League of Legends World Championship event attracted more than 70 million viewers. This has encouraged large scale broadcasters like Disney and ESPN to sign up to broadcast future high profile esports events. In 2019, over $20 million dollars in prize funds was handed out to the top players of the battle game Fortnite.
Betting is not the only way that esports generates financial returns. Just like traditional sports competitions, revenue is generated by ticket sales, merchandise and brand partnerships. Large esports revenue streams also include online advertising opportunities and the sale of media rights.
Due to growing demand for esports, colleges in the US have begun to offer varsity esports programmes to students. With at least 50 colleges signed up so far, a governing body called the National Association of Collegiate esports (NACE) has been established. This illustrates how talent esports stars are being considered for scholarships and sponsoring alongside talented traditional sports players.
Technological advancements are helping to grow demand for esports
Both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are in their relatively early stages of development. However, they have the potential to make esports widely accessible and engaging to new audiences.
Using these technologies, we can make watching esports a more immersive experience. It is important to understand the differences in how audiences wish to engage in esports in comparison to traditional sports. While you may watch traditional sport on TV or inside a stadium, in esports; VR could enable audiences to not only form part of a digital crowd, but also roam around the game map as an observing participant.
As this technology develops, interest in esports will continue to grow. With these advancements, alongside changing legislation and government attitudes towards gambling, we can anticipate that both esports and traditional sports betting will grow in popularity and revenue.