I saw in a recent article that this year’s Esports tournament champions earned more than Wimbledon & Masters winners, and I started wondering whether I got it all wrong in life. Why did my parents force me to go play outside instead of playing video games? I could be a millionaire today! Jokes on the side… I became fascinated with the Esports world, so I decided to take a deeper dive into how we got here, and the role digital transformation played in establishing Esports as a real source of income. Esports has seen increased tv coverage recently. Although gaming may seem like it came out of nowhere, this is far from the truth, as Esport’s origins date to the 1970s. Let’s take a deeper look into its history:
The Beginning of Esports
Stanford University hosted the first video game competition on October 19, 1972. In this tournament, Stanford students competed against each other, with the winner taking home a one-year subscription to the Rolling Stone magazine. The big mainstream breakthrough came in 1980 when Atari (a third-party company for Nintendo that was the leader of the video game market from 1975 to the early 1980s) held the Space Invaders Championship that attracted over 10,000 players and brought video games out of the shadows.
In 1980 Walter Day created Twin Galaxies, the organization that would record and keep world records. This is a significant event in the early Esports development as it allowed players to keep score of games worldwide. This popularity caused video games to make their way onto popular culture through television. Still, gaming only took off in the 1990s when the internet opened up a whole new world of possibilities.
During this period, Nintendo took video games’ controls, graphics, gameplay, and accessibility to a whole new level, making gaming more accessible to people worldwide and allowing competitive gaming to grow. In 1990, Nintendo created The Nintendo World Championships. Events like this one paved the way for much larger video game tournaments towards the end of the decade. In 1990 PC gaming was on the rise, and the internet made it possible for gamers to face off against each other across the world.
The first esports leagues were created at the end of the 1990s, such as the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL), the Professional Gamers League, and Quakecon. The Red Annihilation, part of Quake, took place in May 1997 and is considered one of the first actual esports competitions. As spectators viewed it in person and online, this was mainstream and received news coverage from newspapers and television networks. By winning the tournament, Dennis “Thresh” Fong put his name into history and earned the tournament’s grand prize, a Ferrari 328 GTS.
During the early 2000s, video games and online gaming continued to attract people and grow in popularity. More players could use home computers that kept becoming more powerful and less expensive. Esports have hit this stratosphere in large part because of the social component of live streaming and gaming. Video gaming-specific streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube Gaming give fans a direct connection to the players and teams. These platforms played a significant role in bringing competitive gaming to spectators worldwide. Hitting the scene in 2011, Twitch gave esports a platform to reach previously unthinkable heights. Twitch was incredibly important to the development of Esports because it gave anyone interested in the sport a chance to attend. Games like League of Legends (LoL) and Defense of the Ancients 2 (Dota 2) became widely popular, bringing millions of unique views on Twitch.
League of Legends:
In 2011 the first League of Legends World Championship was held 2011 in Sweden. The event had a $100,000 prize money, with the first-place winners taking home $50,000. These numbers continued to grow throughout the years, as in 2017, over 60 million people watched the event. These are incredible numbers as they outshine viewership totals of the United States’ most significant sports leagues such as the MLB and the NBA. The League of Legends World Championships were an essential indicator of the growing fan base of esports; however, the advent of Dota 2 and its tournament, called International, is a testament to how big the sport has become in terms of prize money.
The first International was held on August 1, 2011. The top 16 teams in the world were invited to the event, the first publicly streamed Dota event. The tournament was broadcast in four different languages, with a million-dollar grand prize. Since then, the prize money continued to grow to reach a staggering $10,862,683 in 2017.
What does the future hold for Esports? Well, Esports shows no signs of slowing down. New successful leagues are being introduced, allowing Esports to grow at an exponential rate. In 2006 Google purchased YouTube for $1.65 billion, and Amazon bought Twitch in 2014 for $1 billion. These acquisitions emphasize the importance of the social component of gaming. As the game grows and new digital technologies are brought on board, Esports continues to gain respect as a real sport among more organizations worldwide. For all these reasons and the increased power of technology and digitalization, I believe Esports will continue to grow in the following years and who knows, possibly become an Olympic sport one day.
- eSports – Wiki | Golden. https://golden.com/wiki/eSports-6MZBV
- Competitive League of Legends quiz game coming to Steam …. https://www.pcgamer.com/competitive-league-of-legends-quiz-game-coming-to-steam-somehow-hasnt-been-shut-down-yet/
- The History Of Esports – Hotspawn. https://www.hotspawn.com/other/guides/the-history-of-esports