The Next Big Thing: eSports?

eSports are virtually becoming the new reality.

4 min read


As you took your seat in the middle aisle of the dimly lit stadium, you began observing your surroundings: the loud, excited chattering among the audience, men and women of different colors and mostly in their 20s to 30s. Straight ahead, at the center of the stage, two teams of five players sat in a row, each in front of a monitor. While some members adjusted their headsets and prepped for the countdown, others bore a serious expression as they engaged in the final round of brainstorming. 

The commentator interjected with a gentle reminder of time. The battle was about to begin. It was no ordinary combat. It was none other than the finals of the real-time strategy game - League of Legends (LoL).

In the early 2000s, eSports was just a community of video gamers who would gather at conventions to play multiplayer video games like Counter Strike, Call of Duty or LoL. But fast forward to 2017, the said community has quite a phenomenal year, in terms of the growth (financially) and the attention it has been receiving - from media giants, tech businesses and even governments and organizations alike. 

This year, eSports’ revenue accounted for “a $892 million market, up 19% year-on-year (YoY), and will surpass $1 billion next year,” according to SuperData Research. The activity is thriving from its increasing number of audiences worldwide - with a forecasted viewership size of 303 million by 2019 - largely thanks to the growing number of mass media broadcasters joining this space - from Turner Sports Network, Disney’s ESPN, Facebook, YouTube and Twitch by Amazon. 

In addition to the expanding viewership, tech companies are jumping in to grab a slice of the large pie. With more and more spectators and players across the world, whoever develops a way to bring these competitions in a mainstream media format is the winner. Marketers and advertisers are also in for the game, as eSports proves to be a golden opportunity to more effectively reach the younger demographics than traditional TV ads. (Case in point: starting as early as 2014, brands like Coca-Cola “live-streamed a LoL tournament to theaters in Europe and features the likenesses of game characters on soda bottles in South Korea.”)

So what does the future of eSports look like? A frequently debated question is will it ever be acknowledged and accepted as real sports? Its fans, commentators and players are optimistic. While playing video games seems to lack physicality, it does involve strength and mental training, dieting and combating issues like burnout. For instance, Tony “Zizkzlol” Gray, a coach in the Counter Logic Gaming, claimed that the training can “teach [gamers] to see the game better” and explained the services their organization offers, such as offering physical therapy to care for repetitive strain injuries. 

Also, eSports tournaments are already routinely taking place in bigs arenas and on a huge scale. In South Korea, the stadiums that once hosted the matches of FIFA World Cup 2002 are now often used for eSports events, and looking ahead, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) decided that eSports will be officially included as a medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games, set in Hangzhou, China. Lastly, compared to conventional sports, eSports pays no less to the best - as much as $20 million in prize money and team owners sometimes spend six figures to sign the best free-agent players. 

With the help of social media and the new attitudes adopted by the younger generation, the negative stigma associated with playing video games is becoming less common. A recent PwC research study shows that eSports is embraced by people of all ethnic backgrounds and largely between the age of 18 and 34 (69%) and interestingly, contrary to popular belief, women are equally (and perhaps more) involved in gaming than men. 

It is indeed an exciting time to be in: witnessing or participating in the making of the history of eSports. Competitive video gaming will only continue to grow, with more and more people connected to the Internet and corporations paying more attention to this latest sports phenomenon. Perhaps, someday, some many years from now, it will even be “the” sports the younger generations refer to and talk about. 


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A recent graduate of New York University, Vivien Li is a global storyteller, curious traveler and aspiring foodie. Growing up with a bicultural background (Taiwanese and American), she is deeply passionate in learning about cultures across the world, and spent 4 semesters studying away: from London, Washington DC to Prague. With a major in Media, Culture and Communication and interests in technology and business, Vivien enjoys listening to, sharing, and voicing ideas of her own and from different people, and hopes to bring positive impact through her work and writing—starting with SheCanCode.