They play a significant role in the video game industry. The competitions of the most popular titles are held in world-class arenas, watched by millions, backed by global brands, and led by some of the world’s most prominent video game companies. Read our eSports Guide to to find out Everything to Know in 2023.
Everyone wants to be a part of it, but newcomers should be aware that esports are still in their infancy in most parts of the world.
So there you have it: an overview of the current state of esports, so make sure to read on!
What exactly is eSports?
eSports are simply electronic sports. Competitive gaming events were organized in various leagues, with teams and players competing for victory. Grand prizes are up for grabs, as is the honor of being crowned champion (s).
The very best players compete to become the world’s best at their favorite sport.
The winning teams or individual players could receive millions of dollars in prize money, as well as additional funding from sponsorship, endorsements, and team salaries.
Intel pioneered eSports with the first Intel Extreme Masters gaming tournament at CEBIT in 2007. Of course, competitive gaming had existed as an idea for quite some time before that, with players always wanting to prove that they were better than their friends. But it’s been going for a lot longer than that:
The community desired a shift toward organized, stadium-based tournaments, which is where ESL and Intel came in.
The popularity of eSports competitions has grown due to global viewership to the point where Intel has attempted to gain official recognition for eSports by bringing season 12 of the Intel Extreme Masters to Pyeongchang during the 2018 Winter Olympics.
The Evolution of eSports
You are mistaken if you believe that eSports has only been around for a few years! The origins of gaming and competition on PC or consoles were established in the 1950s.
However, only technological advancements at the end of the 1990s made video games accessible to the general public. Cybersports have grown in popularity due to improved hardware and graphics, as well as the global expansion of the Internet. ISPO.com knows when eSports first appeared.
An Overview of eSports
On October 19, 1972, the first official video game competition was held. The participants competed in a game called Spacewar, with the grand prize being a one-year subscription to Rolling Stone magazine.
eSports competitions became popular in the 1980s. For example, the Space Invaders Championship drew over 10,000 participants and brought video games out of the shadows. But let’s start at the beginning and look at all the stages of eSports’ development.
The 1950s Ushered in the Age of Computers
Competitive computer games have been around since 1952. At the time, computer scientist Alexander Shafto Douglas was working on his doctoral thesis in Cambridge on the interaction of humans and computers when he came up with the idea of turning the game “XOX” into a computer game. The human, on the other hand, was always playing against the computer and could only determine who had started.
The first actual multiplayer game was presented at the Open Day in 1958 by the then-head of “Instrumentation Higinbotham.” “Tennis for Two” allowed two people to compete against each other. It was played with an early version of the joystick, which allowed players to hit the ball over the net and adjust the trajectory of its trajectory. Many people consider this title to be the birth of eSports.
The 1960s: the start of eSports history
It would be a few years before the first eSports-style tournament took place. The space game “Spacewar!” was created in 1962 on a PDP-10 computer by computer scientist Steve Russel and some colleagues from MIT’s “Tech Model Railroad Club,” including Martin Graetz and Wayne Wiitanen.
It pits two players against each other, each with one spaceship. Interestingly, the spaceships already had a limited supply of fuel and ammunition and had to contend with a planet’s gravitational field.
It is regarded as the world’s first digital computer game, and the New York Times named it one of the ten most important computer games of all time in 2007. But on October 19, 1972, the time had finally come: the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Stanford University hosted the world’s first eSports tournament, the “Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics.”
Twenty-four players gathered on this day to compete in “Spacewar! Incidentally, the winner at the time received a year’s subscription to “Rolling Stones” magazine.
Arcades and Home Consoles Celebrate Huge Successes in the 1970s
The “Magnavox Odyssey” was the first game console that could be connected to a TV, and while it was somewhat awkward to use (the playing field had to be glued to the TV in the form of a template in order to play), it made digital gaming accessible to the general public.
Furthermore, arcades were later established, allowing the general public to play games on machines such as Pong.
However, the game’s competitive nature was only possible with the introduction of permanent high score lists; one of the first machines to feature this option was “Sea Wolf” from 1976.
Level up: This is why gaming requires more inclusion.
The 1980s Marked the Beginning of High-Scoring Lists
In 1979, two machines, Asteroids and Starfire, were released, allowing gamers for the first time to immortalize themselves in a high score list with a personal name code.
Because only a few machines allowed players to compete against each other, these lists became a measure of the player’s skill. With Space Invaders, Atari laid the groundwork for the world’s first major eSports tournament in 1978.
Over 10,000 gamers competed to win a version of Asteroids at the 1980 Space Invaders Championships, and on October 10, 1980, William Salvador Heineman crowned the winner, making him the first winner of a national video game competition.
The next steps in the direction of eSports came from the United States, with arcade operator Walter Day from Ottumwa in the state of Iowa founding the first referee service for video games on February 9, 1982 with the “Twin Galaxies National Scoreboard.” The background was a 1982 Time magazine story about 15-year-old Steve Juraszek setting a record in Defender, but Walter Day knew a young player in his arcade who had far beaten that record.
After consulting with machine manufacturer Williams and game developer Namco, he discovered that there was no national leaderboard for Defender or any other video game – the initial spark for the creation of his service, which is derived from the name of his own arcade. “Twin Galaxies’ Official Video Game & Pinball Book of World Records” was soon designed as a universal set of rules to prevent cheating.
He founded the United States National Video Team, the world’s first professional gaming team, in 1983 and also organized the North American Video Game Challenge, the first video game masters tournament in the United States. He can confidently be called one of the pioneers of eSports due to his extensive efforts around the topic of “video games.”
Netrek is a Video Game Classic
Netrek, the first multiplayer computer game that up to 16 players could play against each other over the Internet, was released in 1988. It was a real-time strategy game in the Star Trek universe in which the players take on the role of the Federation, the Klingons, the Romulans, or the Orions and have to conquer a galaxy consisting of 40 planets.
The 1990s: Improved Technology Makes eSports Accessible to the General Public
At the start of the 1990s, Nintendo recognized the phenomenon of competition and organized the “Nintendo World Championships” in the United States in 1990, with the winners receiving golden Nintendo gaming modules and a triple-header of Super Mario Bros, Rad Racer, and Tetris.
In 1994, the well-known video store chain “Blockbuster Video” organized a world championship for video gamers in collaboration with the American GamePro magazine, using the Super Nintendo and the Sega Mega Drive, with games such as Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Virtua Racing.
A Watershed Moment in the History of eSports
As hardware became cheaper and more powerful, PCs became interesting for private households and, thus also for the games industry. In the mid-1990s, the first large LAN parties began, where gamers could compete with each other. But not only on a large scale, but especially on a small scale, gaming via the network exerted an ever-increasing fascination.
The early clans that would drive professional play emerged from these meetings, and soon these teams competed against each other in the larger tournaments. With the advancement of networking and the possibility of private Internet connections, the previous regional restrictions also fell away. Games such as Doom, Quake, Unreal Tournament, or StarCraft are now an integral part of eSports history, laying the foundation for playing against each other – whether in a team or individually.
As a result of this evolution, the first eSports leagues emerged near the end of the 1990s, such as the Electronic Sports League, which arose from the “German Clan League” (DeCL), or the “ClanBase,” which debuted in 1998.
eSports in Germany: Rapid Growth
The topic’s popularity was demonstrated in Germany in 1999 by the “Gamers’ Gathering” in Duisburg, where more than 1600 players from all over Europe gathered to compete against each other in various games. In South Korea, eSports was professionalized with the establishment of the Korean e-Sports Association (KeSPA) in 2000, which focused from the start on the possibilities of marketing eSports on TV.
And yet another highlight of 1999 favored network gaming against each other in teams: Counter-Strike. The game was released on June 19, 1999, and was the result of a small team of students. The gameplay is all about the fight of an anti-terrorist unit against terrorists on a limited map. The game is played in rounds of five minutes each.
Global Networking as a Success Guarantee in the 2000s
The first “World Cyber Games” (WCG) were held in Seoul in 2000, thanks to developments in South Korea. In 2003, the first Electronic Sports World Cup (ESWC) was played in Poitiers, France, with the so-called “Grand Final” of this tournament held in Paris in the summer. While the initial focus was on PC games, console titles were gradually included in the competition canon. Halo 2 is particularly worthy of mention here, as it has played a pioneering role in console gaming.
The “CPL World Tour” (Cyberathlete Professional League) was the first eSports event to be endowed with one million dollars in 2005. The game played was Painkiller, which was indexed in Germany at the time. The entire series was held in ten cities around the world and ended with a final in New York, which was broadcast live by the music channel MTV.
The Greatest eSports Athletes of All Time
Finally, the “Championship Gaming Series” (CGS for short) created a stir in 2007. The competition was held for the first time that year and offered prize money in excess of one million US dollars, resulting in the most expensive eSports tournament of all time when combined with the associated player salaries of around five million US dollars.
How Popular Is eSports Today
eSports is a rapidly expanding industry, both in terms of popularity and monetary value. In 2017, eSports had estimated worldwide revenue of £565 million; by 2021, the global market for eSports was valued at more than a billion US dollars, up more than half from the previous year, according to Statista.
Event attendance at major stadium competitions is increasing as fans try to see their favorite teams compete, but online viewing is also increasing.
The 2018 League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational drew 60 million unique viewers, consuming a total of 363,000,000 hours of footage, while the Intel Extreme Masters World Championship 2017 drew 46 million unique online viewers, which is significantly more than the televised inauguration of President Trump, demonstrating the importance of this industry.
It is estimated that 474 million people will watch eSports worldwide in 2021.
A YouGov report published data in 2017 that found that only 7% of British adults (around four million people) had watched eSports gaming, indicating that we continue to lag behind other countries that take eSports much more seriously.
In China, for example, nearly half of all adults have watched eSports online.
Passion for eSports and competitive gaming is growing in the UK, thanks in part to the growing popularity of video game streamers, YouTuber content creators, and Twitch.
Intel’s Scott Gillingham told us in 2018:
“The United Kingdom has the world’s fifth-largest gaming market.” It all comes down to people purchasing games and the necessary hardware to play them. The eSports industry is still developing and underdeveloped compared to other parts of the world. The United States is one of the world’s leading gaming nations, with a thriving eSports industry.
This year has seen significant growth in the UK eSports market. We’ve seen more tournaments, such as ESL One. It’s the first time ESL has purchased a major in the UK. It sold out in 24 hours and was one of the fastest-selling ESL tournaments in the world. Over the course of three days, over 24,000 people attended the event. We’re seeing industry and community grow in the UK, and more eSports events are coming to the country.
Newzoo investigates the size of gaming markets in the United Kingdom and around the world. Much of it is determined by game sales and data obtained from companies such as ESL. According to Newzoo research, there were over 33 million gamers in the UK in 2017. Twelve million of those gamers play on a PC. We are seeing an increase in this as well. According to the data, PC gaming is growing at a rate of two to three percent per year.
People are watching eSports and following gamers, with a large portion of that being PC-based. They’re also gathering a lot of information about the best experience this way. This is most likely why the PC gaming segment of the market is expanding.
To give you an idea, our gaming division is experiencing double-digit growth. So we’re seeing that growth all the time.”
A quick Google search for the phrase “lol” no longer returns a definition for the acronym (laughing out loud), but instead returns a long list of results related to League of Legends, which has been one of the most popular games in eSports for quite some time.
What Games Do eSports Players Play
So, let’s start with a basic eSports question with a broad answer that can also be a little confusing: What games do eSports players play? It’s a fair question, and it makes sense, because eSports tournaments and leagues are generally centered around specific games.
To make sense of it all, let’s start with the basics and establish some key lingo that goes into describing the world of eSports. While it’s difficult to categorize all games into only a few genres, most video games played competitively in the world of eSports can be divided into four categories.
In general, professional players or teams play four types of games: strategy games, which include multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games—such as the incredibly popular League of Legends (LoL)—and real-time strategy (RTS) games; other extremely popular genres include first-person shooter (FPS) games, sports games, and finally fighting games. Although not considered strategy games, these types of games still involve e
Games of Strategy
First, there are strategy games—RTS and MOBA games.
Real-time strategy games are so named because they differ from traditional turn-based games in that players must control units to react to events as the game progresses, and these games frequently include resources and building mechanics to further challenge players. Popular examples of RTS games in eSports include StarCraft II and Warcraft III.
MOBA games, which originated as a sub-genre of RTS games, are team strategy games in which teams work together against an opposing team to take out their base while defending their own. In 2018, the top prize money for the LoL World Championship was nearly $6.5 million dollars. Another popular MOBA game, Dota 2, had a total prize pool of over $25 million dollars in the 2018 championship.
It’s exciting and entertaining to watch teams win seasons, tournaments, and matches with their teams because of how MOBA games work. In the 5 v. 5 styles matches, each player selects a “champion” or the character each player uses. Each champion has a unique set of abilities and equipment, so teams have to build off of each person’s skill set as well as how this works with each person’s champion’s abilities.
MOBA games are extremely successful professionally, bringing in millions of viewers and dollars, particularly outside of the United States and in Asia; as shown in the graph below, MOBA tournaments have outperformed most traditional American sporting events in terms of viewership rates.
Shooters in First Person
FPS games revolve around weapon-based combat as seen through the eyes of the main character and usually involve teams competing against each other in multiplayer sessions. This genre exploded (almost literally) onto the gaming scene when Doom was released for PC in 1993, thanks to the game’s extremely high graphics at the time, as well as still-appreciated combat.
First-person shooter games are one of the most well-known eSports genres, including classic franchises such as Call of Duty, Rainbow Six, and Counter-Strike. The most popular FPS titles right now are Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Battlefield V, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, and Overwatch. Some FPS games choose to take a more realistic approach, while others focus almost entirely on combat and multiplayer competition.
FPS games also include the more recently popular battle royale genre, which includes titles like Fortnite and PlayerUnknown: Battlegrounds, in which a large number of players (usually 100) compete in the same session, either in small teams or alone, for a single slot as the winner, similar to The Hunger Games, but with many more people and much, much more violence.
Fighting games are tense games that almost always pit one player against another in rounds and series where every hit on the other player counts.
The Fighting Game Community is one organization that has formed to host large fighting game tournaments and exhibitions with open bracket systems where newcomers and anyone with a desire to compete and the ability to pay the entry fee can compete.
This genre includes the Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter series, which date back to the early days of arcade gaming and, along with many other games, such as the slightly more recent Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros, are considered classics by millions of people, drawing millions into the world of competitive professional fighting games.
Finally, and perhaps most simply, sports games allow players to control traditional sporting players, teams, franchises, and coaches to play out their own games and seasons, either with and against other players or alone against an AI-controlled opponent.
These games include titles that most people are likely already familiar with, such as Madden, FIFA, and NHL, as well as games like Rocket League, which combine traditional sporting features and styles (The goal of Rocket League is to use cars to push soccer balls into goals. The cars have rockets and boosters attached to them.)
Because sporting video games can ride on the coattails of established and traditional sports, they have a higher status when it comes to official recognition. For example, Tony Estanguet, co-president of the 2024 Paris Olympic committee, has been a proponent of bringing video games to the Olympics.
The potential for violence or obscene content to be a part of the game, combined with the fact that the rules for traditional sports showcased in eSports sporting games are already more or less understood internationally, makes these games serious contenders for much more established platforms than other types of games.
What is the best way to get started in eSports
Getting into eSports may be easier than you think for passionate gamers, according to James Dean, CEO of ESL UK:
“There is no entry barrier in eSports.” You’re a gamer if you play video games. You can improve your game by participating in a competition. If you’re really good and practice a lot, you could win a million dollars on a big stage. And, for the most part, that is available to everyone. It’s about giving anyone a chance to do anything.”
Most competitive players enter professional gaming by first playing casually, then joining a team, then taking it more seriously – joining an organization and aiming for higher levels.
Players can easily register and begin competing, and other players have entered the industry traditionally. Previously, UK football teams Manchester City and West Ham have signed eSports players, indicating a move into the mainstream.
How Much Money can eSports Players Make
We’ve previously discussed how much money eSports players can earn by winning competitions, but there’s also money in sponsorships, endorsements, and more if you’re good enough.
However, James Dean of the ESL warns that there isn’t quite enough money for most people to earn a living right now:
“You can’t currently go full-time at a national level in the UK because there isn’t enough money in it.” But it’s growing; there will be people playing at a high level, on a national team, earning a good wage, and aspiring to go even higher in three or four years.”
The money comes from international competitions; for example, the DOTA 2 finals in 2016 had the largest prize pool of the time, totaling $20 million, with $9 million going to the winning team.
Epic Games, the company behind Fortnite, announced its intention to provide a $100 million prize pool for Fortnite competitions during the first season of competitive play, giving you an idea of how much winning teams could earn.
Professional gamers can make money not only in competitions but also on YouTube and Twitch. Famous professional gamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins revealed that he makes around $500,000 per month streaming to his Twitch fans.
Ninja is a professional gamer who has been competing with various eSports teams such as Cloud9, Renegades, and Team Liquid since 2009. He’s only recently become a household name, but he’s also a prime example of how well gamers can do with enough dedication.
Other professional gamers have made gaming a full-time job. Sacriel, for example, plays and streams on Twitch eight hours a day, six days a week.
Other eSports careers
However, there is more to eSports than just gaming; there is a high demand for behind-the-scenes talents such as production, league operations, marketing, and event management.
As with other sports, it is unlikely that players will have a long career playing the games; many professional players retire or move on after a few years.
Injuries are just as common in eSports as they are in other professional sports, and repetitive strain can be a problem. Carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, repetitive strain injury, and neck pain are just a few of the issues that have been reported.
Things change in the industry as well; players may begin by playing a specific game, only to discover that changes in the franchise mean they’re not as good at subsequent iterations as they were with the first.
On the other hand, retired players can move into other roles within the industry, including coaching future players.
The British eSports Association has some advice for those interested in pursuing a career in eSports, including specification guidance and advice for all of the various possible roles within eSports, which include:
- Professional video gamer
- Player trainer
- eSports journalist/creator of content
- Executive in Public Relations/Marketing
- Product supervisor
- Manager of Sales/Partnerships
- Owner/manager of a company
- Manager of community/social media
- Crew for broadcast/production
- Event coordinator
- Other responsibilities (statistician, lawyer, finance, support, etc.)
- Other gaming jobs (developers, publishers, distribution, etc.)
Numerous opportunities are available; it is not just about the actual gamers.
Can You Bet on eSports
First and foremost, let us define what we mean by esports and eSports betting. The simplest definition of esports is any type of competitive video gaming between individuals or teams. This differs from simple video gaming in that the players compete against other players rather than the computer.
Esports has exploded in popularity over the last decade, with massive esports tournaments featuring superstar eSports teams and esports players competing in front of thousands of screaming fans and millions of fans tuning in to watch on live streams such as Twitch.tv, YouTube Gaming, or Facebook Gaming.
And, as with any traditional sport, the competitive gaming involved in esports has opened up a world of betting opportunities!
Concerns about eSports Health and Addiction
While eSports and the ability to earn money as a gamer are both positive developments for the industry, there are some legitimate concerns to be aware of.
To become the next eSports star, you must spend many hours each day gaming, and research on the negative impact on your health of sitting in a chair in a dark room staring at a screen is conclusive. Faker, one of the world’s biggest eSports stars, practices for 12-15 hours per day, which does not bode well for your health.
A recent study conducted by Zwibel et al into the health impacts imposed on esports players discovered that athletes are more likely to sustain musculoskeletal injuries in their neck, back, and upper extremities, as well as metabolic disturbances due to excessive time spent in front of a computer monitor.
The majority of these problems are caused by poor posture and sedentary conditions that are common among esports players.
Because of the sedentary nature of the sport and accompanying poor posture, esports athletes are more likely to sustain musculoskeletal injuries to the neck, back, and upper extremities, as well as metabolic disturbances caused by light-emitting diode computer monitors and mental health concerns related to gaming addiction and social behavior disorders.
Another concern is the introduction of college scholarships for eSports, as teenagers will now justify their excessive gaming use by claiming they will be the next eSports star when the likelihood of this is extremely low.
There’s nothing wrong with trying to compete at a high level, but when kids use eSports to justify their excessive gaming, it becomes a problem.
There is a significant difference between a child playing for 12 hours a day by themselves and a regulated and regimented team with coaches, personal trainers, and advisors, as seen in the majority of college programs.
That allows people to game in an environment that fosters a healthy relationship to gaming and is critical in avoiding mental health problems later in life.
I’m not one to discourage a teenager, or anyone, from pursuing their dream, but doing so while being informed about what it truly takes is important, and what it takes is more than gaming all day, every day.
It takes focus, determination, responsibility, maturity, and optimal mental, physical, and emotional health, among many other factors, including luck.
When millions of people compete for hundreds of spots as professional gamers, having a backup plan in case it doesn’t work out is highly recommended.