In the back corner of the cafeteria at Four Seasons Mall, there used to be an arcade. Back in the ‘90s, every Saturday at lunchtime it was packed with kids waiting to play Mortal Kombat. The world is changing, and so is gaming. And today, we now have eSports, and it is very serious business. Electronic Sports have grown from local arcade tournaments into a multimillion dollar industry with millions of viewers who either attend events in person or stream online to watch the most skilled players in the world compete on their favorite games.
Most people have probably heard of eSports, or maybe caught a glimpse of them on television while scanning the channels. But most probably don’t understand the rise in popularity that electronic gaming is currently going through. And it’s not just the players, but rather the viewers behind the rise. Who would have ever thought that 46 million people would tune in and stream live videos of other people playing video games? Well that is exactly what happened for the 5th Annual Intel Finals. Remember the LeBron James commercial where he hits a game winner then hugs his teammate, and the camera catches him crying, then they turn his face into a baby face? That same company that signed James to an undisclosed contract, has also sponsored the Intel Extreme Masters, which is the longest running eSports gaming tour. They have already awarded over $7 million dollars in prize money, and the tour will stop in Oakland this November at Oracle Arena hosting a tournament featuring $300K in prizes. Even some of the smaller tournaments in eSports award $50K in prize money.
Amazon had to jump in on the action too. In August of 2014, they acquired Twitch, a video platform used by gamers and fans to stream tournaments, for $970 million. Yes, a video game streaming service sold for almost a billion dollars.
Apparently eSports isn’t just a bunch of booger eaters, hanging out in their parents’ basement. Patrik Lindberg from Sweden plays under the handle “f0rest” is 29 years old and has already made over $500K in career earnings from eSports, according to esportsearnings.com. Lindberg is regarded as one of the best and most consistent players of Counter Strike in the world. Since 2006, he has been earning an average of over $43K per year from online gaming.
As I was typing in the search bar “eSports beginning” to do some research, “eSports betting” came up. You can actually bet on this stuff. If there is any way to draw interest to your new start-up business, let people gamble on it. You can research teams or specific players, then go find betting odds on them for the upcoming tourney. So you have companies producing games geared toward eSports, the competitors and the fans who show up in droves just to watch the competitors. On top of all that there is now a segment of that fan base who wants to gamble on these players at tournaments. This is beginning to sound way more fun isn’t it?
The games have changed as well. If you’re like me and grew up in the ‘90s playing in arcades, on Nintendo’s and PlayStation’s, most of the game titles don’t sound familiar. The most popular titles in eSports are games like League of Legends, Dota 2 and Counter Strike Go. These are multiplayer online games that have become insanely popular. There are however a few titles you may recognize like Street Fighter and Call of Duty.
At first I was skeptical as to whether I could ever enjoy the world of eSports, but the more I learned, the more I want to go out and buy a PS4. People may turn their nose up at the notion of kids making a living off of playing video games, but it has become a reality. And you don’t have to look far for evidence. Greensboro now has Boxcar Bar + Arcade, it’s basically an arcade for adults. I would not be surprised to run into some of those same old faces from those Saturday’s at the mall from my youth.