The Rise of Esports in America
For those who are not familiar with esports, you will be soon. Esports has been on the rise over the past decade and continues to gain traction through popular sources like Twitch, ESPN, and Youtube. Chances are, if you live in or near a big city, there is an esports team near you.
Recently, a 16 year-old named Kyle Bugha won three MILLION dollars at the Fortnite World Championship. That’s right, three million dollars. Not three hundred or three thousand, not even three million V-Bucks. But cold hard cash. Another surprising fact that you may have overlooked. He is 16 years old. I don’t know about you, but when I was 16 I was excited to make a few hundred books from working as a cashier at my local grocery store. Of the top 5 players, all were under 24, one just 13 years old and winning a small fifth place prize of $900,000.
Yet, how big is esports really? Like ,without this recent Fortnite tournament? We all know people love Fornite and video games in general, but is competitive video gaming really a thing? Absolutely. Esports is a huge money generator; with the largest team, Cloud 9, being worth more than 310 million dollars. And these numbers are only projected to grow. It is a global industry, with teams coming from South Korea, Germany, Vietnam, China, France, and many other countries. Esports has grown so much that it has been considered being added to the Olympics. Players have become public figures that fans adore. These celebrities stream themselves playing video games on platforms like Twitch and Mixer where they give gaming advice, engage their viewers through chat, and play with their fans. Many attend events like Twitchcon where their viewers are given a chance to interact and meet their stars. Millions of viewers are watching someone somewhere play video games at any given time.
How is Competitive Video Gaming Profitable?
If you are still unsure of this whole esports thing, let me break down how these organizations make their money. An obvious one is by winning. Different tournaments around the world offer prize money to the winning team or teams. This money then goes to the organization and players. If a player is not a part of an organization, they get all the money.
Other ways of making money are through sponsorships. If you every watch a League of Legends or Overwatch match, you will notice the players are wearing jerseys covered in sponsors, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that watches the NBA, MLS, NASCAR, or other professional sports. Sponsors are everywhere. Even the chairs they sit on and the computers they use are a source of sponsorship.
Just like other professional sports, esports teams make money off of merchandise, tickets, and advertising. Some host streams on Twitch where they can earn a generous revenue from viewers, while other teams like Clutch Gaming are owned by other professional sports teams, like the Houston Rockets. Esports is a new method of entertainment, but at the core of it makes its money in the same ways as other sport professionals. If you win, market yourself properly, and keep a good track record you will gain a following.
How Does this Affect Me?
It doesn’t! If watching others play video games is not your thing, great. It doesn’t have to be. But understand that others love watching their favorite team or streamer play. Last year I woke up at 2am to watch the final 5 game series of Worlds for League of Legends. I had no allegiance to either of the final teams, but I love the game. I love the passion behind LoL and the energy the players and fans bring. It’s great. And like I said, if that’s not your cup of tea, then that’s awesome. But don’t judge those whom it is their cup of tea. With how long video games have been around, it’s surprising that it has taken this long to blow up. Competitive gaming has been around for a long time, but thanks to new technologies and platforms, it has now become huge. Teenagers and adults alike have been given platforms to entertain, make friends, and in some cases make money out of their passion. People who previously felt lonely are now feeling connected. All thanks to video games and esports. So, next time you happen to turn on ESPN and a video game is being played, give it a chance and watch.