But we shouldn’t forget new people are attracted to esports all the time: to play themselves, as a spectator, or even as a punter seeking another market.
So if you are a novice esports enthusiast and still don’t know your CS:GO from your SCII, this is the article for you.
What are esports?
Esports are computer games that allow multiple players to face off in some form of competitive game environment. There are different types of games that qualify as esports, although most PC or console games playable online against other players or teams would qualify by this broad definition.
However, at the highest level of esports (which is what we are predominantly interested in) there are a rather small number of games that attract players and teams to tournaments.
Like any other sport, you can find the level of esports that’s a pick-up game in the park, but remember that’s a far cry from the World Cup or NBA Finals.
What are the most popular esports?
Although almost any console game could be an esport, there are relatively few games that attract interest from top esports players.
That’s not to say games like Call of Duty or FIFA Soccer do not attract their own tournaments, but they are simply not as popular for esports as the top titles:
- League of Legends (LoL) – This is a multiplayer online battle arena game where teams of five players battle by selecting a team of Champions to represent them in the game. Each different Champion has different skills, strengths, and weaknesses. The aim is to beat opponents by destroying their Nexus (their base).
- Defense of the Ancients 2 (Dota 2) – Dota 2 is another multiplayer online battle arena game. It was developed by Valve and is free to play on the Steam network. It operates in a similar way to League of Legends with teams of five players defending their base while simultaneously trying to destroy their opponents’ base. Dota 2 boasts the richest esports tournament in the world, The International, which is scheduled to have prize money in excess of $21.5 million this year.
- StarCraft 2 (SCII) – SCII is a space-based strategy game where players select one of three different races: Terran, Protoss, or Zerg. Players win by making better strategic decisions more quickly than their opponents. This is generally a single-player game, but team versions are available. Of all the esports on which betting is available, this is arguably the least popular, although it is also probably the most-played esports in the world.
- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) – CS:GO is a first-person shooter in which teams work toward competing objectives. Players win by eliminating all the enemy players a stated number of times (usually 16 during tournaments) or by completing the objective stated at the expense of the opposition.
Can I play esports?
Absolutely yes. Dota 2 is free from Steam, and CS:GO has an initial cost of approximately £12.99 in the UK.
League of Legends is technically free, but in order to progress in the game you may need to purchase some items. In 2014, for example, League of Legends generated $1 billion in micro-transactions, which is players exchanging real cash for items in the game.
StarCraft II needs to be purchased. The game is now available in the UK for between £8 and £30 depending on the version.
Once you have purchased or downloaded the game, you can log in and start to learn how to play before testing your skills online against other players. It’ll be a while before you’re ready for any kind of big time.
Are esports popular?
Yes, esports are extremely popular, especially in Asia. In South Korea, top esports players are treated like music or sports stars. Big esports events are shown live on television and streamed online via platforms like Twitch.
However, the esports industry is growing beyond Asia into North America, Europe, Oceania, South America, and all other parts of the globe. As more people play, more people watch and more people bet on the outcome. The industry is currenly undergoing huge and sustained growth.
Many top esports tournaments are now taking place in huge stadiums, and events sell out weeks beforehand.
What are the big-money esports tournaments?
At the highest level, companies like Valve, Steam, RedBull, ASUS, and Monster Energy sponsor events. They offer prizes in the hundreds of thousands, and even millions, of dollars.
At this level, elite players are effectively employed full time for their teams, playing in tournaments around the world each day and living something of a jetset lifestyle in many cases.
With that privilege comes responsibility, and esports teams are notoriously fickle in their roster cuts. It is a cutthroat business at the highest level, but the rewards for the top players can be huge.