2017 is living up to be the biggest year in eSports history, and the most packed tournament schedule we have ever seen has already provided plenty of thrills.
We saw OG win a fourth Dota 2 Major Championship Crown in Kiev, while Team EnVyUs won the biggest CS:GO prize in history when they won the World Electronic Sports Games grand final, and DreamHack has served up plenty of excitement across the globe. But the best is yet to come as eSports fans can look forward to a summer stacked full of big tournaments.
In 2016, eSports increased its fanbase to 148 million people across the world, and analyst firm Newzoo estimates it is enjoyed by 22% of male American millennials, a similar figure to baseball. It is equally huge in China, South Korea, Scandinavia and continental Europe, and is spreading like wildfire and taking off all over the world. It is tipped to explode in Australia, while in the British eSports Association has teamed up with Westminster City Council to establish the UK’s first after-school eSports training club, designed to teach children life skills such as leadership, strategy and team building. Respected betting websites are turning their attention to eSports, and many believe it will become a $22 billion betting market by 2020. In 2017, the firm expects the global eSports audience to shoot up to 385 million fans, and this is the year it is really breaking into the mainstream.
The highlight of 2016 was The International Dota 2 Championship in Seattle, which had a record prize pot of $20,770,460, more than double that of The Masters in golf. Chinese team Wings Gaming netted a cool $9 million after their 3-1 final win over US-based Digital Chaos. This year The International is set to be even bigger still when the seventh iteration of Dota 2’s flagship annual championship hits the KeyArena Center in August. Single elimination qualifiers begin on June 22 and the main qualifiers event runs from June 26-29, before the Wild Card Series, Group Stage and then the main event from August 8-13, featuring the world’s 16 best teams. The qualifiers are going to be intense, as every team is looking for a chance to prove themselves, and the Grand Final promises to be epic. The prize money for The International has increased steadily each year and 2017 is sure to be the biggest in the history of eSports.
The League of Legends 2017 World Championships is heading to China on September 23 and will run until November 4. The prize purse is a more modest $5 million, but that puts it above the Kiev Major as the second most lucrative tournament of the year. The World 2017 will feature 24 teams from all 13 professional LoL leagues around the globe: Brazil, China, Commonwealth of Independent States, Europe, Japan, Korea, Latin America North, Latin America South, North America, Oceania, Taiwan-Honk-Kong-Macau and Turkey. For the first time there will be a play-in stage before the 16-strong group stage. SK Telecom T1 go in as champions after winning it in 2015 and 2016.
Other highlights will come from DreamHack events in Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Montreal and Sweden, the $1 million ESL One in Cologne, which has just confirmed its 16 teams, the HGC Finals, Evo, Shine 2017 in Boston and the 2GG Championship in Santa Ana, among others. It really is a full-on calendar and fans can look forward to plenty of excitement in the months ahead.
The main surprise is that there are not more pro eSports players, given its soaring popularity. The number actually competing as opposed to watching is tiny, but as the industry continues to grow, it won’t be long before dozens of gamers are making more than $1 million a year and thousands more will be able to make a decent living out of it.