Origins of Esports and What has made eSports so popular?

While you might know the name David Beckham, you might not recognize the name Doinb or his real name Kim Tae-sang. 

The first is a global football megastar, and the second is a professional League of Legends player. 

While many people might not put these people both in the term sport, games played at a competitive level are known as eSports. A highly competitive place where there are millions up for grabs. 

What are eSports?

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eSports is the short term for Electronic Sports, and it is where organized tournaments and competitions happen for professional players. You may have seen some coverage in gaming outlets and online about some of these larger tournaments and how much is at stake for professional players. 

The games that fit into the eSports genre are quite specific too. While people aren’t like to play online slots at Virgin Games competitively, here is what they do play: 

  • Madden NFL
  • Counter-Strike
  • Call of Duty
  • League of Legends
  • Overwatch 
  • Fortnite

There has also been some conversation around including poker and other competitive casino games into the eSports category. Since that has very similar characteristics when played online. 

eSports started much smaller than it is now. Almost all of the tournaments were arranged by the developers and at small convention spaces. The rise of internet gaming in the early 2000s and the growth of streamers combine made professional gaming a real thing. 

Quake may have started the trend as it was one of the first major tournaments in 1997, followed by Warcraft 3 and StarCraft. Now there are million-dollar prize pools on the table for the winners of DOTA 2, Overwatch and League of Legends matches. Not to mention the lucrative sponsorships from gaming companies. 

What does the eSports audience look like?

Interestingly enough, the eSports audience is very, very diverse. It might be one of the most diverse entertainment audiences around. A phenomenal 532.1 million viewers of eSports are the statistics for 2023, and the market itself is valued at $1.44 billion. It is predicted that by 2029 it will reach $5.48 billion. 

For some context, IMARC predicts that the global football market will be worth $4 billion by 2028. 

The audience split for eSports viewers in the US is 28% female and the rest male. China is the most engaged country when it comes to eSports, and as a population, there is a 47% engagement rate in the eSports sector. Here are the countries with the highest engagement rate: 

  • China
  • Indonesia
  • Thailand
  • Taiwan
  • Philippines
  • Vietnam
  • Malaysia
  • Hong Kong
  • India
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Egypt
  • UAS
  • Singapore
  • Spain
  • Iraq

And around 60% of the eSports fans are between 16 and 35. 

What are some of the biggest tournaments in eSports history? 

There are a couple of stand-out tournaments in eSports history – and they are laying the foundations for what the future of eSports will look like. Here are the biggest tournaments to date in eSports history. 

  1. DOTA 2 TI – The International was the biggest one when it comes to earnings and had a huge prize pool of $34 million. 
  2. League of Legends – one of the most popular eSports games, getting a huge 3,985,787 viewers for the 2019 Worlds.
  3. EVO Championship Series – one of the longest-running eSports tournaments, featuring Super Smash Bros, Tekken and Mortal Kombat
  4. Honor of Kings World Champion Cup – a mobile eSport with over 100 million players! 

In terms of viewership of the tournaments: 

  • Free Fire World Series 2021 Singapore had 5,414,953 viewers
  • 2019 LoL Worlds had 3,985,787 people tune in
  • Fortnite World Cup 2019 had 2,334,826

Those are just some of the figures to show just how big the modern-day eSports audience is. 

What has made eSports so popular? 

From a fairly humble start, eSports has grown to a substantial size, and there are many factors that have aided its growth. 

Accessibility is one of the main ones. It is easier than ever for people to not only play these games for themselves but to find videos demonstrating how to play, then find themselves invested in certain players. 

Community when it comes to gaming is unlike many other communities, and while it does have its issues, it can be a very accepting space for those who were once considered to be societal outcasts. A sense of belonging when gathered in the game spaces occurs, which is something that cannot be replicated elsewhere. 

Professionalism is high; the gamers, their teams, and their sponsors take what they do seriously. These actions have helped to make sure that eSports are treated with respect and are understood to be a valid career option and legitimate. 

Technology has meant that the viewing and playing experience is unlike anything that most players will have experienced before. AI and VR, as well as immersive graphics and high-level editing, have meant that the spectator experience is unlike almost anything else. 

eSports started as a small head to heads for the best players, and it has now reached a global stage with audiences in the millions – and with its current trajectory and predictions, it is likely to reach dizzy heights in the next few years.

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