There has always been a debate over whether or not esports should be considered a ‘real sport’. Some people argue it should not since it doesn’t include anything particularly exhausting, or that since it’s ‘just video games’, it doesn’t count.
On the other hand, quite a lot of people think that esports absolutely deserve to be called sports, since they have similar levels of training, dedication, and requirements of their athletes. Honestly though, whichever camp you fall into, one thing is NOT up for discussion – and that’s the close link between traditional sports and esports games.
It’s obvious, really – games like FIFA, NBA, Madden, NHL, or even Rocket League actively represent ‘real’ sports – and even games that have nothing to do with sports, such as MOBAs like LoL or shooters like Overwatch are set up in much the same way.
Even the trend of betting – betting in esports that is – closely follows the way it works in traditional sports. Tournaments, rounds, individual scores and more can be wagered on… and that’s not even the end of it.
A new partnership
Traditional sports teams are heavily trending towards partnering with esports companies. Not only do football teams and the like occasionally sponsor or even field teams in esports competitions, when lockdowns first scrambled plans for in-person sports competition, the entire sporting world looked towards esports for help.
Quickly, replacement ‘fun’ tournaments started to crop up – pro athletes competing in the matching esport in lieu of their regular type of competition. While no real replacement for things like races and matches could be found, temporary forays into the esports world offered a way to keep fans engaged and prevent them from getting bored with the lack of competition.
While 2020 was definitely exceptional in that regard, it brought the two industries closer – and that is unlikely to change. In fact, it’s quite likely that they will continue to grow closer. That in and of itself is no surprise, after all some esports events are already rivalling sports events in viewership numbers – yet for some major sports leagues, viewership numbers have been dwindling for years.
A young influence
There’s quite a lot of innovation to the approach esports takes compared to regular sports – and of course the target audiences are quite a bit younger too. This leads to a completely different style of engagement – and one that’s show itself to be very successful.
It’s difficult to tell which way the symbiosis between sports, esports and the betting industry leans – each borrows from, contributes to, and mimics the others. Some esports leagues are modelled after franchised sports leagues, while some sports teams actively engage in esports competitions, and some esports games feature gambling mechanics like loot boxes, while you can bet on competitions for both traditional sports and esports.
One thing is clear – this symbiotic relationship, although it isn’t perfect, is generally beneficial for everyone involved… and of course for the fans watching at home!