What Is Esports? (And Why You Should Take it Seriously)

Headshot of Ethan Patrick, Head of Amateur Scouting for New Frontier Esports & Entertainment

Though still in its infancy, Esports as an industry is booming. So, what is Esports and why should you take it seriously? Let’s dive in:

Remember as a kid when your parents told you not to waste so much time playing video games, and that it would be bad for your eyes and turn your brain to mush? That there was no purpose in gaming, and it couldn’t pay the bills? No? Just me?

Ok, well maybe they were right at the time, but a lot has changed.

Before the 2000s, Esports wasn’t as popular as it is today. It primarily existed in small tournaments here and there for various games – teams or individuals would win money, but nothing life-changing was happening at the time. It wasn’t until the early 2000s when larger tournaments began and big money was put on the line. Then, in the late 2000s, individuals and teams started earning a lot of money and making a living from being professional gamers.

So, what is Esports, exactly?

Simply put, Esports is the professional world of video games. 

Players from around the world form teams within various games to compete against other teams. Whoever wins these competitions not only gets bragging rights, but they often go home with thousands, or even millions, of dollars. Some of these major-league games include, but aren’t limited to, League of Legends, Call of Duty, Fortnite, Counter-Strike, Valorant, and Overwatch. 

Each video game is treated as a different sport (the same way that major league baseball, hockey, and football are all different sports), and they each have leagues that teams and individuals compete in intending to be crowned champions.

All events are either live-streamed on different platforms (Twitch, YouTube, etc.), or held in-person at LAN (local area network) events, in which people connect and play on the same network. Both virtual and in-person events often draw in tens of thousands of spectators who excitedly watch their favorite players take part in a game they also enjoy playing. 

And there is money to be made.

Ten years ago in 2012, season two of the Call of Duty League World Championships had a prize pool of USD 2 million, with USD 1 million going to the champion. During that event, there were over 8 million viewers tuned into the live broadcast, with 1.1 million concurrent viewers during the grand final. That’s more viewers than the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Final when the Carolina Hurricanes played the Edmonton Oilers. 

Here are some more statistics of viewership and prize winnings from recent events:

  • The 2021 Call of Duty Championship peaked at 220k in viewership, with a prize of $1.2 million for champions Atlanta FaZe who beat out Toronto Ultra 5 – 3.
  • At 2019’s Fortnite Word Club in New York, Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf beat out the 40 million players who entered the online competition, which then was brought down to 100 players for an in-person showdown, winning $3 million.
  • In 2018, the League of Legends World Championship had a prize pool of $6.4 million, with China’s Invictus Gaming taking home $2.4 million after beating Fnatic of Europe.
  • During the Valorant Championship this year (2021), the overall peak viewership for the group stage was day 1 at 690,000 viewers, with Twitch peaking the highest at 587,000 viewers. This championship had higher viewership than Valorant Masters in Berlin (480,000 viewers) and Valorant Masters in Reykjavik (605,000 viewers) 

People love watching other people play their favorite video games, there is a ton of money in the industry, and the landscape is still in its infancy.

These numbers are exactly why you should be taking Esports seriously.

Yet, at the end of the day, despite how it’s grown over the past couple of decades, the overwhelming majority of people don’t understand the appeal of Esports and how it can change lives. Some see Esports as a bunch of kids playing video games and, watching from the outside, it can be very confusing. 

A lot is happening on the screen and, if you don’t fully understand the game, it can be almost impossible to keep up. But as the years have gone by, gaming franchises have taken strides to ensure newcomers can follow along with and fall in love with their games. 

As Esports continues to grow and be taken seriously, non-industry companies are taking note and beginning to invest in a new era of sports entertainment.

Even though it’s nearly impossible to compare Esports to other sports such as hockey, football, or baseball, the industry has garnered credibility due to the extraordinary level of skill and dedication it takes to become successful. 

The average person can’t simply hop into an online multiplayer lobby and become a professional overnight. It takes countless hours of practice and play to refine the craft while still maintaining a regular work, school, and social life.

The pros that play in major leagues dedicate their lives to becoming the best of the best and making it to the big stage. Like with traditional sports, those who put in the effort and make sacrifices can prosper in Esports – making a living and a career out of it.

The sky is the limit for Esports right now, and it’s only getting higher. 

Along with being a professional Esports player, there are also streamers and content creators. 

While they both exist in the world of video games, there is an important distinction to be made between content creators/ streamers, and Esports athletes. Content creators and streamers use their level of influence to make consumers aware of new games on the scene and to give them a different perspective on the game, while athletes are focused on high-level play and their craft. 

Being a content creator or streamer has become increasingly mainstream in recent years because of the money and partnerships available to influencers. Receiving donations from viewers while live streaming, accepting branded partnerships, and even signing exclusive deals with Esports organizations are just a few ways that content creators make money in the gaming world. 

Just recently, a group of three upcoming Esports superstars by the name of the Baka Bros (individually Biffle, LuckyChamu, and Repullze) signed with the juggernaut Esports organization Complexity, and have only been together as a group, streaming and making content on Warzone, for approximately a year.

Becoming a streamer/content creator in this day and age is accessible and attainable with a simple tech setup, allowing players to earn a living playing the games they love.

Not everyone who tries to be a pro-Esports athlete or streaming/content creator makes it, but the playing field is wide open for those who have talent, put in the time and effort, and have the right support. 

At the end of the day, the entertainment industry is for people who want to make a career doing what they love, and if that’s playing video games, then play on.

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[…] Gamers can be summarized as those aged between 18 to 25 who, for the last decade, have been immersed in adopting predominantly digital entertainment-based pastimes and hobbies including video gaming and Esports. For those that skipped our primer on Esports, you can read more about what Esports is here. […]

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[…] In this article, we’ll dive into how Esports has grown over the decades, key areas of revenue generation, and why brands should pay attention. And while you’re here, bookmark our article on what Esports is, and why you should take it seriously. […]

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