The growth of eSports has been chronicled pretty thoroughly in the past five years or so, and we’ve seen competitive gaming begin to thrive like a real sport. Of course eSports aren’t athletic activities, but in several other ways they do mimic sports: they involve professional-level training and competition, and nowadays people are even tuning in to watch gamers play against one another online. As if that weren’t enough, a study cited by DW suggested that professional gamers even experience similar physical strains to those of real athletes. In other words, the study officially concluded that eSports professionals are real athletes, as strange as that sounds.
And eSports aren’t just becoming “real” sports in the eyes of those that play or study them. They’re also being treated increasingly like real sports by spectators. As mentioned, people are tuning in to watch eSports events online, and often in numbers that rival those watching major sporting events like the World Series or NBA Finals games. Gambling.com’s guide to betting on eSports shows that those spectators aren’t just watching casually, but actually investing in the sport. All of the major sports betting networks have gotten in on eSports, and there are a variety of markets in play. eSports spectators apply real strategies and careful calculation to treat the events like any other sport, even from a betting perspective.
It would be almost inappropriate to start any such conversation with any game other than League Of Legends, which is far and away the most played eSports game. In fact, when League Of Legends topped Gamers Decide’s list of the most popular games in eSports, it was shown that its monthly players more than quadruple those who played World Of Warcraft—at the peak of its popularity. It’s also League Of Legends that’s responsible for the aforementioned eSports events that rival the viewership of major sporting events. The inventive MOBA game is just uniquely suited to roping in huge quantities of competitive players, and because of that it’s leading the way in eSports.
We’ve also seen some newer gaming concepts beginning to play their parts in the ongoing surge of eSports popularity. For instance, Psyonix’s Rocket League game, digitally released for Windows and major consoles in 2015, has already taken hold as a brilliant new experience designed for multiplayer competition. It’s essentially a play on soccer that allows up to eight players on each team made up of rocket-fueled vehicles knocking a ball around, and it took off quickly. It’s now supported by cross-platform multiplayer capability (meaning Windows players can compete against PS4 or Xbox One players), and new updates have introduced hockey and basketball versions of the game.
Along with this rapid development, this Rocket League announcement revealed that Psyonix is looking to gain a major foothold in eSports as well. They’ve just established the Rocket League Championship Series, with a $75,000 prize pool set aside for the first season and streaming on Twitch already set up.
Aside from cutting-edge new experiences and established leaders in competitive gaming, eSports is largely being driven by a variety of popular multiplayer games. Sports games (FIFA), fighters (Street Fighter), real-time strategy games (Starcraft), and first-person shooters (Halo) are the genres that have the most influence at this point. They’re also the ones that collectively make up a bulk of eSports playing, viewing, and betting activity.
With so many established games already involved, and new experiences being crafted specifically for competition, there’s no slowing down in eSports’ immediate future. The rapid expansion and meteoric rise of this incredible new sport is likely to continue.