The growing eSports market is definitely one to keep an eye on. Avid fans of gaming will have been there from the start, watching the industry prosper in the last decade or so. When gaming first took off around the early 2000’s – and we’re talking about competitive gaming here – it was a relative niche thing. Some of you may remember the old days of playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare on GameBattles, and back then it was more of a hobby than anything else. You’d get a group of friends together, make a clan, then compete against others – sometimes for a bit of money, but most of the time for pride.
Fast forward to 2021, and eSports has become a much bigger thing. According to Statista, the global eSports market was valued at just over 1.08 billion dollars this year, an almost 50% increase from the year before. It is much bigger than everyone gives it credit for, and there is plenty of interest from big brands to sponsor the various teams.
The question is, can eSports ever be as big as normal sports? Will there come a time where we talk about Major League Gaming in the same breathe as NFL or NBA? To answer this question, we have to consider what makes sports popular and how competitive gaming may prosper or fail…
Live sporting events
Naturally, one of the main attractions of professional sports is the ability to attend live events. There’s nothing quite like watching football in a stadium with the fans around you – or basketball in an arena. You’ve got an atmosphere at live events that really makes them special, and it’s one of the reasons why sports are popular around the world. With eSports, can you ever achieve the same level of atmosphere?
The answer is…maybe! eSports events can be hosted with live crowds, and there has been a level of success before. Just look at this video below to see how rowdy and exciting the atmosphere can get at these events:
<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/b3H4UxYpdM8″ title=”YouTube video player” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe>
For anyone that’s ever been to a live darts match, it’s not too dissimilar to that. In fact, you could argue that the indoor setting in an arena like this makes for the best crowd atmosphere. You can also clearly see that they’re getting crowd numbers in, which probably explains how the industry is growing so quickly in terms of revenue. So, there’s no reason to say that eSports can’t become as big as certain sports in this department – I think they have the live events sorted!
Now, there’s no denying that betting is such a massive thing in the world of sports. No matter where you look, there will always be a mention of betting whenever a game is on. Betting companies run offers all the time, whether it’s bonus codes for BetRivers or free bets from BetUS, there are going to be incentives for people to partake in a friendly gamble or two. For this reason, most of the best sports in the world are popular because they have great betting opportunities.
Take basketball, for example. You can’t just bet on the final score, you can bet on things like who scores the most points, what the score will be at each quarter, who will hit the most free throws, how many fouls will be committed, and so on. Soccer is another massive betting sport, with bets to do with everything from the first scorer to how many throw-ins are in the match. The more popular a sport is with the betting agencies, the more money it tends to generate. This is because betting companies sponsor teams and leagues, pumping money into the system and helping the sport grow.
On that note, will eSports ever be good from a betting standpoint? In all honesty, the answer is a resounding yes. Think about it, in a video game there are all sorts of things that can be bet on. Going back to the soccer example, people will play FIFA competitively. That’s basically the same as soccer, but via a video game. So, the same betting lines apply, plus the added benefit of being able to bet on the individual gamers’ performances too.
eSports betting is already taking off, so it has what it takes to be a massive sport in this department. Therefore, you can argue that it ticks off yet another box in the argument for it becoming as big as the traditional sports out there.
Another thing that makes traditional sports so exciting is the local teams. Look at any professional league in the world, and they will be packed full of teams from different locations in a country. This inspires loyalty as fans attach themselves to the teams they are closely located to. It also breeds rivalries as teams within a close geographical location will hate one another! Rivalries are what make sports great, and it’s all down to the local teams you see everywhere.
So, does competitive eSports have the same thing? The answer is pretty complicated. Across the US, you do have teams that are based in a certain location. However, not all of them make a big deal out of being from this place. Similarly, overseas, you typically only get eSports teams from the big cities in other countries. Look at the UK, for example, most of their eSports teams are located in London, so you don’t really have the diversity across the country to attract loyalty from local fans.
Furthermore, the leagues that these teams play in are different from what we see in other sports. Here, they are usually split into regions. So, we have NA, Asia, EU, and so on. It becomes less about local rivalries and more about rivalries between regions. Overall, this is probably the area where eSports is lagging behind traditional sports. It’s hard to compare the team and league setups, and perhaps eSports will need to find ways to engage with fans on a local level. This could also generate better rivalries that may ignite more interest from locals.
Finally, traditional sports are fuelled by the biggest names in the world. Some of the most famous people you can think of are professional athletes. The star names draw more fans in, growing the sports. Can we look at eSports and say the same thing? Does it have the star names to draw in more viewers and grow into a sport that rivals the bigger ones?
Right now, there are some big names in eSports, but the problem is that there are so many different games within this industry. A popular game right now is Valorant, and fans of that game will know people like Tenz as a massive name. If you don’t like that game, but you do like COD, you may have no clue who Tenz is! Again, this is perhaps where eSports struggles the most as it has so much diversity that it’s hard for players to stand out as massive marketable names.
However, we can argue that it is still early days for this industry. The biggest sports in the world didn’t instantly become popular – it won’t happen overnight. Perhaps in a few years, we might see some eSports players as famous as traditional athletes.
In conclusion, we can say that eSports is a growing market that is rivaling traditional sports in terms of crowds, atmospheres, and much more. Nevertheless, it doesn’t feel like it will ever compete with the bigger sports in the world. Why? Because it has almost too much diversity, and there’s also a massive elephant in the room. Games come in and out of fashion all the time – one moment they’re popular, then they’re not. This means the industry is constantly changing, making it harder for people to keep watching.