What is eSports?
The term eSports describes competitive video gaming as a sport. eSports typically involve team-based gaming as a spectator sport with ranked matches. eSports are similar to traditional real-life sports in their culture, but players generally engage online. With an increasingly wide array of games. The advent of streaming video helped give rise to eSports, which is on its way to becoming a billion dollar industry.
eSports can be described as competitive (video) gaming of any genre of video game. They are sports where “athletes” play as a virtual character in a virtual world. eSports are also called “electronic sports”. This should not be confused with the brand “EA Sports”.
TIP: If I play a single game competitively, I’m playing an eSport. If I am referring to these games as a sport in general, then the term is eSports (plural).
Are eSports only “Sports” Games?
eSports includes traditional sports games, but the most popular eSports are MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas), a type of competitive RPG (Role Playing Game) where players form teams and battle other teams. Other popular eSports games include FPSs (First Person Shooters, like Call of Duty), Fighting Games (like Street Fighter), and RTS games (Real Time Strategy Games, like Star Craft).
eSports is any competitive video game, and people who play eSports are “athletes.” They form teams, compete, have fans, and can win big money.
TIP: Understanding the MOBA genre is key to understanding eSports. MOBAs consist of two teams, a field, matches, and a point system similar to traditional sports. They are the most popular type of spectator eSport, have the biggest cash prizes, and have additional similarities to traditional sports. Seeing a ranked match of an MOBA, for example in the video below, will help you understand why many consider eSports as a legitimate sport.
Are eSports Actual “Sports”?
Some people claim that eSports aren’t actual sports, but this view isn’t necessarily accurate. Aside from physical activity, much of the culture is the same for eSports and traditional sports. eSports has leagues, teams, tactics, fans, spectators, betting, events, ranks, and all the other advents of more traditional sports. Wrestling has branded itself as an “entertainment sport“, and we can perhaps extend this title to eSports. People don’t script eSports. In fact, one could argue that pure raw talent and teamwork play just as big a role in eSports as they do in traditional sports. Cheating is not tolerated even in-game exploits. Some teams attract better players, but money plays only a small role in why a player joins a particular team.
See our detailed breakdown on “whether or not eSports a real sport”.
Are eSports sports? This video asks that. It’s hard to argue that they are the same, but very hard to argue that eSports aren’t a true sport.
Quick History of eSports: From Spacewar!, to Street Fighter, to Counter Strike, to DotA, to League, to Twitch
The first eSports were the first multiplayer video games, specifically the first ever competition based around a multiplayer game. The first video game competition was held for one of the first arcade games, Spacewar! At Stanford University (where the only “Spacewar!” machines were housed). First prize was a year subscription to Rolling Stone.
High Scores in Arcades
From there we get the arcade competitions of the 80’s where people like Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe battled for the top score in Donkey Kong. Competitions in games like Street Fighter became popular in the 90’s.
As the internet grew, games competitions for games like Counter Strike (one of the first popular competitive FPS games) became popular, and so did competitive gaming for games like Diablo (an early popular multiplayer RPG).
The First MOBAs
The first popular MOBA (DotA, AKA Defense of the Ancients) was created from a mod of World of Warcraft (the RTS Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, not the MMORPG, made by the same team who made Diablo). The first sponsored tournaments for an MOBA were held for DotA. This game type paved the way for games like League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth.
Modern eSports and Twitch
Since the 2010’s platforms like Twitch.tv (a site where people watch other people play video games) have helped to take competitive gaming from a hobby to where it is today.
Twitch.tv is one of the highest traffic sites in the world, and the community revolves around eSports culture. League of Legends (a popular MOBA) is typically the most watched game on Twitch.
The industry that has been built up around competitive gaming, and all those who participate in it, is “eSports.” There are many forms of the sport: a competition in an arcade, to watching a friendly match online, or a pre-event for the year’s biggest gaming competition.
eSports is Becoming a Billion Dollar Industry
Although eSports can describe the playing or viewing of any competitive video game for fun, teams are typically formed in actual and competitions between real-life teams often feature awards (including cash).
Global eSports revenue is estimated to reach $1.9 billion by 2018.
Sometimes the best way to understand something is to watch it. Here is a hype video showing eSports teams, then the Picks & Bans: 17:35 and then Game Start: 24:32.
FACT: On May 4, 2015, SuperData Research reported that over 134,000,000 people worldwide watched competitive gaming.
FACT: SuperData Research estimated that the global eSports industry generated revenue of around $748.8 million in 2015. Asia is the leading eSports market with over $321 million in revenue; North America has around $224 million, Europe has $172 million, and the rest of the world has about $29 million.