Once a niche hobby first emerging in the late 90’s and early noughties through games like Starcraft and Counter-Strike, esports has finally found its opportunity to rocket to fame as it is quickly becoming one of the premier options in sports entertainment with figures regularly registered much higher than what is found in traditional options – and as the gap between both esports and traditional sports continues to close, many are starting to see why esports is looking primed to take over. But where do the biggest strengths lay for esports, and how will it achieve the success needed to grow bigger than other options?
Accessibility and familiarity – Much of the difficulty for regular sporting has always been within broadcasting options – typically tied behind either a paid service or an individual paywall, many have reverted to seeking out alternative sources for viewing which can often diminish the experience. This is where esports has managed to succeed most, with free live streaming of all events through platforms like Twitch, accessibility has never been a problem and has helped many new fans find their way to the platform. The latest push has been toward bringing more familiarity, with newer titles from the likes of FIFA, and the widespread introduction of esports betting, there is more that is recognizable for the more casual fan and has been a big part in the success in recent years.
Big leap for viewership – Ultimately the goal is to bring in viewers – in the early days of esports this was difficult as the platforms to do so didn’t exist, and television deals are expensive and cumbersome. The big leap for viewership has really become available in the past few years with the success of livestreaming, as mentioned in accessibility, and is in large part the reasons for success – in 2019, the League of Legends World Championship brought in an estimated 100 million viewers, capping off with a suggest 44 million concurrent viewers in the final day – bigger than many traditional sporting options on offer, even the biggest such as the Superbowl.
Changing attitudes toward gaming – To cap it all off, changing attitudes towards gaming as a whole have been a big boon for esports. The launch of mobile gaming back in 2008 brought handheld gaming to a wider audience than ever before, and the past few years have seen mobile gaming surge past all other markets – whilst this doesn’t directly impact esports, it allows gaming as a whole to be seen in a different light and has allowed esports to move into this space of heightened support, and the rapid growth that seems to be likely to continue well into the future.