If you had told someone at the start of the 2010s that playing video games professionally was one day going to be one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, you almost certainly would have been told to go get a ‘proper job’, or laughed out of whatever room you were in. And yet, here we are, with the Esports industry now worth over $1.64 billion and showing no sign of slowing down in the coming years. Join us today as we explore what Esports means, why it has exploded in popularity, and why it looks set to continue expanding.
What Is Esports?
Anyone who has ever experienced an Xbox Live lobby can attest to the fact that video games have a way of bringing out the competitive side in all of us. And it is that competitiveness that led to some of the first tournaments being set up. At first, these events were small local affairs, however, thanks to the advent of live-streaming platforms such as Twitch, more and more people were able to tune in and watch them. More audiences led to partnerships with sponsors for these events, allowing for bigger production values, higher wages and more tournaments across the globe.
In short, ‘Esports’ is the umbrella term used to describe an assortment of games that have dedicated competitive scenes where professional players train, tour and compete against one another.
And why do so many people fill out huge venues and follow their favourite teams and players virtually? For the same reason anyone might want to watch the Premier League or NFL – seeing the best in the business making an absolute mockery of something we are all passionate about. Rivalries form, storylines develop and the influx of more money and resources has only seen the stakes and talent on display expand to new heights.
Wagering on esports is also a popular pursuit amongst fans at providers such as unikrn, as an added way of experiencing these events, and collegiate programmes have even been established designed to nurture the next generation of professional gamer athletes.
Esports By The Numbers
As of 2023, the Esports industry is worth $1.64 billion, with a projected growth of up to a staggering $4.81 billion by 2030. The most popular types of games in the world of Esports are Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas such as League of Legends, Real-Time Strategy games like Starcraft, First-Person Shooters like Valorant, and Battle Royales like Fortnite.
However, one of the biggest reasons why Esports is expected to grow so astronomically in the next five years or so is the adoption of 5G connectivity for LAN (local area network) events, and the development of professional scenes around free-to-play mobile games such as Arena of Valor, PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds and Clash Royale.
So, all sounds pretty promising so far, right? Well, as with any industry, there are several challenges facing the world of Esports that have emerged as it has continued to expand. One of the biggest of these is doping. Much like in the real world of sports, there have been several high-profile cases recently where players have resorted to taking performance-enhancing substances to gain an edge in the server. With the demands of being a pro player much higher and the potential prizes on offer being more lucrative than in years prior, perhaps these sorts of cases should be expected.
Tournament organisers have been forced to adopt anti-doping procedures as a means of tackling this issue and ensuring a fair playing environment.
Another key issue with the current Esports climate is one we touched on above player burnout. It may sound like a luxury problem to have, but playing a video game professionally for a living can be an incredibly demanding challenge. Aside from all the practising, conditioning and training that goes on (often for 10-12 hours per day), as well as the physical demands of travelling the world for months at a time, the sheer mental taxes of constant competitive play in games like CS:GO have led to several pro players taking extended breaks away from the scene.
As Esports continues to expand, issues like the ones we mentioned above are sure to continue cropping up. Esports is still a new industry, mapping out unchartered waters as it goes. Nevertheless, its rapid growth over the past decade is a testament to the passion gamers have for their respective titles, and there’s no reason to think that passion won’t continue to propel the industry to new and even more impressive heights in the next few years.