One of the biggest success stories in video gaming across the past few years has undoubtedly been the unstoppable rise of esports.
While the idea of playing video games for a living might have once seemed unthinkable, professional competitive gaming has made it a genuine possibility. The very best gamers on the planet are now able to earn major prize money on a range of titles, with the action often being watched by thousands of fans in stadiums and many more online.
But will esports ever become part of mainstream culture and be fully embraced by the general public? Here we outline four recent developments which hint that the industry is edging ever closer to taking the step.
A major economy
The figures around the esports industry undoubtedly speak for themselves. According to research organisation Newzoo, the esports economy will be worth $905.6 million this year, and much of this is expected to be driven by brand investment in terms of advertising, sponsorship and media rights. For instance, we’ve seen Epic Games putting up $10 million in prizes for Fortnite: Battle Royale competitions in the game’s first year.
Furthermore, much like traditional sports, the industry has also developed its own offshoot betting scene, with dedicated platforms such as Thunderpick offering fans the chance to make esports bets and examine the latest odds on a range of competitions.
It is not just major brands which have spotted the potential of getting involved in esports, however. A number of high-profile celebrities have taken a step into the world of professional gaming too, with two of the latest names being basketball legend Michael Jordan and hip-hop superstar Drake.
While Jordan has led a $26 million investment into the parent company of esports franchise Team Liquid, Drake has become a co-owner of the 100 Thieves organisation alongside music mogul Scooter Braun. Celebrities’ involvement in esports is only likely to raise awareness of the industry and encourage more people to check out the scene.
It must be a clear sign that esports are edging towards the mainstream when major brands are using references to it in their marketing. McDonald’s promotions spotted in Copenhagen saw some of the company’s products referred to using terms normally associated with esports favourite Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. While reports suggest the ads were placed in the centre due to an esports event being held nearby, it is interesting to see a big name run marketing that only a gaming audience would properly understand.
An Olympic event?
Finally, one more indication that the wider public is becoming more accepting of esports is the continued discussion about whether esports could – and should – become an Olympic event.
While there has been much debate on the issue, reports suggest that the International Olympic Committee may develop a strategy on esports at an upcoming summit being held in December. The IOC even held an esports forum to discuss the matter in July, so it is clear that they are looking into the possibilities offered by the sector.
A bright future
The world of esports has grown massively in recent years, but it is yet to make the leap into the mainstream. However, as each of the points above highlight, the day when it finally breaks through may not be too far away.