The history of esports reads a little like that of a beloved underdog fighting his way to the top. Really, it’s not a stretch – competitive gaming started out as an incredibly niche genre with few if any participants. Small LAN competitions, maybe the odd college event or something on a Saturday in a community center. The first ‘official’ tournament happened in 1972 and featured the game Spacewar. The reward? A year-long subscription to Rolling Stones.
Fast forward just a few years and suddenly competitive gaming is a big deal – but still a small hobby. Still widely looked down on, the 2000s and 2010s paved the way for what esports are today – a billion-dollar industry. Slowly but surely, generations raised playing video games grew older, and had disposable income – and just like that, esports came out from the shadows and stepped into the limelight.
Today, it’s a billion-dollar industry that rightfully compares itself to ‘established’ entertainment industries like music and sport.
“Gaming teams are very similar to digital media companies at the end of the day in the sense that the content generated by one of our professional gamers or influencers isn’t dissimilar to how Vice or Bustle work,”
said Rohit Gupta, the co-founder, and chief product officer at esports org Andbox.
“We’re all content businesses. We’re looking at what those companies do to innovate when it comes to customer acquisition as well as retention.”
The transition to a ‘legit’ industry
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when esports became a legit contender in the entertainment world, but it undeniably is. It has attracted an incredible number of high-profile sponsors, partners, and cross-industry partnerships. Car brands, actors, sports stars – esports has had it all in the way of partnerships and whatnot.
There is intense overlap between esports, gaming, gambling, and the tech industry as well – esports is now an undeniable part of the entertainment world – and it’s not done. By 2024, esports are expected to grow to about $2.3 billions. A HUGE chunk of this money is in advertisements, sponsorships, and media rights.
There is near limitless potential for expansion here as well – and the healthy interplay between esports and allied industries practically guarantees continued growth and expansion. The close connection between gaming and gambling ensures that continued interest will come from that angle as well – fantasy leagues, and betting on esports leagues are rapidly expanding.
Since viewership numbers of big events are increasing steadily, interest in betting on them has risen too – and as such, investments and engagements have as well. Esports events are now drawing the same size crowds (or even bigger ones) than major sporting events, with millions of viewers at a time. With a young audience tending towards esports content too, it’s a perfect combo.
The result? A billion-dollar industry that’s projected to nearly double in size over the next few years. Esports haven’t got the centuries of tradition that other media do, but they’re definitely here to stay!