From artwork 17,300 years ago spanning the Lascaux caves depicting running and wrestling, to the long jump in Ancient Egypt, one thing is certain; the world loves sports. While many sports today have existed for hundreds or even thousands of years, there has not been one which was birthed from the digital era until now: Esports.
The History of Esports
The first video games created in the 1950s were simple in nature. In fact, the first video game simply played tic-tac-toe and was built by Dr. Josef Kates for a national exhibition in Canada. Within this same time frame many universities in America built interactive games for experimentation, and by the ’60s, programmers were developing and trading these games as novelties. When the ’70s came around, video games would enter the arcade era and form a whole new industry. The earliest known video game competition took place in 1979 in the United States at Stanford University for the game Spacewar!, and eight years later 10,000 participants attended Atari’s Space Invaders Championship.
The trend continued along with the advancement of technology into the ’90s where games benefited by the proliferation of internet technology. Esports competitions arose in great size with competitions like the Nintendo World Championship in the ’90s followed by the World Game Championships, Cyberathlete Professional League, Quakecon and the Professional Gamers League.
Now in the 2000s esports has taken over, spreading from Asia to Europe and beyond, creating a massive wave of competition to be taken just as seriously as traditional, physical sports. Will esports be taken seriously enough by the world to make a lasting footprint? The answer lies in the West.
The U.S. Market Potential
The U.S. is the number one market for video games making up the majority of PC, mobile, and console sales in the world. While esports is hugely popular in Asia and Europe, North American interest is steadily growing. The NFL, MLB, and NBA dominate the region with billions of dollars earned in revenue year after year. The biggest question here is will Americans pack stadiums like our European and Asian counterparts to sit and watch a video game competition? Honestly it is hard to call, but if it happens in America esports will be a massive global sensation.
In 2012 alone Americans spent $25.4 billion on sports. Imagine how much esports ould take from the U.S. in profits. Major
companies have had their eyes on esports for some time, and have finally began taking serious interest. Amazon bought out Twitch.tv for a cool $971 million after earlier talks with Google with an offer of $1 billion fell through. Activision Blizzard, the publisher of such games as World of Warcraft and the Call of Duty series purchased MLG (Major League Gaming), a U.S.-based esports organization, for $46 million, with plans of expanding its competitions.
The Future of Esports in America
A global era of esports hangs in the not to distant future, with Fortune 500 companies investing millions of cash, tens of thousands of fans selling out stadiums, and streaming viewership going into the seven digits. According to Newzoo, in 2015 esports global revenue raked in $325 million, and now in 2016 it is estimated the market will hit $463 million. To give a comparison by looking at Business Wire’s financial report, World Wrestling Entertainment, the largest wrestling promoter in the world which has been around for 53 years, had revenue of $542.6 million in 2014. By 2017 esports will have surpassed them altogether. By 2019 it is estimated esports will hit the $1 billion mark in revenue.
Though esports is thriving in Asia and Europe, there is still a chance Americans may not embrace the sport as they do the NFL or NBA. If this happens, it simply means that esports will still thrive in America, just on a lower scale, selling out conventions centers or other smaller venues — like a myriad of other sports. The movement for esports has picked up and is gaining momentum here in the States, but it comes with uncertainties and risk. The cultural differences between the East and West plays a big part in the road ahead, and there is still the debate by some in the U.S. on whether gaming should even be considered a sport. All of this will boil down to a defining moment which has yet to be seen in North America centered around esports, but whichever route it goes, the future of esports in America looks bright.