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Electronic Sports is growing rapidly. Here’s why

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According to Newzoo, a marketing intelligence research provider, Electronic Sports will be a billion dollar industry by the year 2020. When I say Electronic sports, or Esports, I am referring to competitive video games. While this figure pales in comparison to that of major league sports, it is an impressive achievement in its own right.

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League of Legends, the 5 vs 5 MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) game, has witnessed a rise to the prominent position from its creation in 2009 within the Esports scene.  Lolesports.com, the official League of Legends Esports website, confirmed that at the conclusion of the League 2016 World Championship, 43 million viewers tuned in at some point to watch the world’s best teams compete, and a total of 370 million hours of live action was viewed.  The prize pool for the tournament reached $5.07 million, approximately $2.94 million of that coming from fans.

Other games with a increasingly successful Esports scene include, Dota 2, Counter-Strike Global Offensive, Smite, and Starcraft II.  Over the past decade, the Esports industry has grown exponentially, and signs indicate that it will continue to do so.  So what exactly is the reason why people are flocking to stadiums, concert halls, and their computers to watch people play video games?  The answer is accessibility.  Video games have become a go-to hobby for not only the younger generation, but even people in their thirties and over.  The sheer amount of variety in the gaming universe means that there is a game for almost every kind of person.  But then, why are there a handful of games that have such a successful pro scene that bring in millions of viewers?  There are a few things that games like Dota 2, Counter-Strike, Starcraft II, and League of Legends have in common: 1. the games are relatively cheap or free to play, 2. you are matched up with or against other people, and 3. these games are not easy to pick up because they demand practice and some level of commitment if you hope to do well.

Because these games are cheap or free to play, the number of people willing to play increases, which increases the chance of creating long-lasting players.  Since there are so many experienced players and new players alike involved in these games, an interest for competitive matches arises and grows as the game becomes more popular.

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All games with a notable Esports scene pit player vs player which is a vital component. Artificial intelligence (A.I.) technology can only put up so much of a challenge before a player adapts and learns its behaviors.  None of the big Esports scenes are games that have any overwhelming A.I. aspects.  Starcraft II requires you to build a base and an army to defeat another player.  League of Legends, Dota 2, and Smite put you in control of one character to work in conjunction with four other players in an attempt to defeat the other team and destroy their base.  Counter-Strike matches one team of five players against another in a fight to the death.  The human element is a large part of what makes these games have such successful competitive communities.  There is always the element of uncertainty that at any moment, players could do something unexpected and shock the crowd.

These games require skill to play at an effective level.  The learning curve is actually pretty steep, which to some could be a turnoff.  However, the feeling of success after doing well and the rate of improvement that players notice keeps them coming back for more. Because Esports are so accessible, namely on Twitch.com, a game streaming website, millions of viewers tune in to see how the pros are playing their respective game and what techniques and strategies they can pick up from them.  The complexity and intricacies of these games creates a huge range of skill levels.  Both beginners and veteran players are able to learn new things from watching the top players compete against each other.

Because Esports are so accessible, namely on Twitch.com, a game streaming website, millions of viewers tune in to see how the pros are playing their respective game and what techniques and strategies they can pick up from them.  The complexity and intricacies of these games creates a huge range of skill levels.  Both beginners and veteran players are able to learn new things from watching the top players compete against each other.

These factors have already provided longevity for both the games discussed and the Esports components of them.  Looking at the trends, Esports will continue to grow over the next few years in terms of revenue and number of viewers.  These games’ professional competitions have become a legitimate form of entertainment, specifically with younger audiences, and there are no signs of them slowing down.

Dan Calabrese