What is the Future of eSports?

Before we answer that question, recall that six years ago, New Rising Media ran a feature on eSports and its popularity in Asia. It was coming into its own back then, turning from “once a niche subsection of gaming culture” into a full-blown industry of its own. Six years later, eSports is a thing — a very big thing to be exact!

So, on to the question at hand: What is the future of eSports?

From all indications, the future of competitive gaming is bright and that’s a conservative projection, to say the least. The World Economic Forum estimates a billion-dollar future for eSports, with revenues soaring to $1.65 billion by 2021 (£1.3 billion) — up from $493 million (£389 million) in 2016. Its global audience, on the other hand, is on pace to reach 380 million, with 165 million of them actual, dedicated eSports fans and 215 million of them as occasional viewers. And given eSports’ recent history, these projections are likely to hold true. There were only 10 eSports tournaments in 2000, but that number grew to 260 a decade later. By the end of 2017, the number of eSports tournaments had risen to 3,765, which translates to a more than 3,000% increase from 2000 to 2017. Along with this unprecedented increase, is the rise in both eSports revenue and viewership via Twitch and similar platforms. 

There is little doubt that eSports is booming and just imagine how much more it will grow if it becomes part of the Olympics — the biggest, grandest stage for sports. But before you dismiss it as a pipe dream, consider that back in July, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had discussions on possibly including eSports in the Olympiad. But while IOC president Thomas Bach is hesitant to include eSports, he has not totally shut down that possibility just yet. Bach’s hesitation stems from the violence of “so-called killer games” — Defense of the Ancients 2 , DotA 2League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive to name three — as it runs counter to Olympic values. Then again, there are non-violent games in competitive gaming. FIFA and NBA 2K come to mind, with each holding their own tournament (the former held in partnership with the Premier League and the latter sponsored by the National Basketball Association). So, no, don’t close the door on eSports invading the Olympics sometime soon. After all, it will already be a medal sport in the 2022 Asian Games, just four years after it was included as a demonstration sport in the 2018 edition of Asia’s version of the Olympics. 

What’s great about the explosion of eSports is that years after being “relatively underpowered” in comparison to North America and Asia Britain is starting to get into the action. The founding of the British Esports Association (courtesy of Chester King, a veteran of traditional sports) has certainly helped. The association was established to “promote eSports in the UK, increase its level of awareness, improve standards and inspire future talent,” and it is making an undeniable impact on the UK eSports scene. In May of this year, in fact, the first ever Electronic Sports League (ESL) Major was held in the UK, where excited fans watched Vitrus.pro win the title at the Birmingham Arena. The event’s scheduled dates were sold out and the tournament was even streamed by BBC 3, further underscoring its resounding success.

The rise to prominence of competitive gaming has been, in a word, unbelievable, and it is showing no signs of slowing down. The fact that eSports is starting to make big waves even in the UK — a big market no doubt — means it will continue to grow in the coming years. So, clearly, the future of eSports is bright, with massive growth in popularity, viewership and revenue, the upward trend doesn’t look to subside anytime soon.

Written by: Allie Cooper for newrisingmedia.com

gamesGuest Writer