The world of Esports is growing at an explosive rate and it’s proving a mighty headache for mothers around the country too. For years, mammys around Ireland shouted up the stairs at kids to do their homework because “you’ll never make a living playing games”. Well, those days are well and truly gone as the new sports superstars of the world are gamers. So what are Esports all about and why have they become so immensely popular?
What are Esports?
Long story short, Esports refers to the world of professional and extremely competitive computer gaming. Depending on the game and match type, Esports are either played individually or in a team. The growth in Esports comes as multiplayer games and internet connections become more plentiful around the world.
Now, consider your first reaction as you try to process the idea of Esports. It might be a scoff, a laugh or even disbelief. Your first reaction might be like this BBC news anchor who is quickly put in her place by colleague and Esports journalist, Julia Hardy.
Indeed, those number would make the ears of many prick up and take this movement seriously. The industry generated €600 million in 2017 and is expected to generate an incredible €1.3 billion in 2020.
What Games Can You Play Professionally?
Believe it or not, the most popular Esports games aren’t traditional sports like football ported onto a gaming platform. Actually, you have to go all the way down to 28 on the list to find FIFA representing as the top traditional sport.
Defense of the Ancients is a multiplayer game based on the hugely popular Warcraft III. The objective of the game is for two teams to battle their way across a map to each other and then destroy a heavily fortified target. DOTA boasts the biggest prize pool in Esports awarding €107 million in prize money to gamers so far. Other similar games like League of Legends feature in the list of most lucrative games, with LOL Esports perhaps generating the most interest of all online. To the general public, the likes of Halo, Counter-Strike and Call of Duty are arguably the better known of the games to feature in the top 20.
Can You Really Make a Living at Esports?
So if you’re a parent, should you actually start banking on your kids paying off your mortgage with a game of FIFA? Well, the full list of games is almost endless because any game where there is a winner and a loser can be played as an Esport. That means the potential to become a superstar is huge. Each game generates its own following and the interesting thing is that by playing at home in your bedroom you can benchmark yourself against the very best playing on the world stage.
As the 2017 F1 season came to a close in Abu Dhabi recently, so to did the inaugural F1 Esports Series, won by the British Brendon Leigh. Just prior to the final, F1 superstar Fernando Alonso announced he was launching an Esports team and that he had signed one of the finalists, Cem Bolukbasi, to his team. F1 has never been shy about splashing the cash in the past and their foray into Esports, along with the endorsement of Alonso, will give this particular Esport a massive boost. Sky Sports presented massive coverage of the series too, which is more good news for the sport as spectators play a crucial role.
Do People Actually Watch Esports?
Without an audience, emerging Esports will die, hence the importance of Sky Sports focusing on Esports. I’m sure they were just as interested to see how the public reacted to people playing computer games competitively on TV as the F1 organisers were. For the established Esports games like DOTA and League of Legends, attracting spectators has never been an issue. First of all, physical venues attract huge crowds who watch just like those who attend weekend football matches. In 2014, a whopping 45,000 fans attended the League of Legends 2014 World Finals in Seoul while other well-known venues like Wembley Arena has also hosted by Esports events.
The real beauty of Esports comes through how accessible they are to spectating gamers around the world. Being in a stadium provides you with the atmosphere and the comradery, but you can easily tune in and watch Esports on a games console, smartphone or laptop using services like Twitch amongst others. This ease of access has led to Esports generating a following reportdidly in the region of 145 million enthusiasts and even more casual viewers.
Esports in Ireland
So what’s the craic with Esports in Ireland? Well, we’ve had a professional team since 2012 thanks to Emerald eSports. Emerald eSports have players on their roster competing in Call of Duty, League of Legends, Halo, Counter-Strike and Battlefield, to name but a few but if you want to apply a really practical benchmark to how about Paddy Power? Paddy Power now allows their customers to place bets on Esports. While this raises moral questions around betting where young viewers may be present, from a business point of view this means there’s money around Esports in the UK and Ireland and that the future is very bright.
Earlier this year, Trevor Keane founded the Celtic e-Sports League, and envisions the growth of Esports in Ireland and the UK. The scope for growth in the industry is nothing short of breathtaking with the biggest UK prize pool standing at around €560,000 compared to the massive figures we discussed earlier in the US.
You can see why so many are excited by Esports and why big businesses like Red Bull are jumping in to capitalise.
Will Esports Be Big in Ireland?
Generally speaking, Ireland is often a few years behind technological trends, however, this is often caused by manufacturers not providing the hardware – think Amazon, voice search and getting an Echo Dot in Ireland. There are barriers to adoption which limit us.
Esports is different. From children to adults all over the country, there are no shortage of games consoles and PCs. It’s as easy to play DOTA or Call of Duty in Ireland as it is anywhere else in the world, so the outlook for Esports in Ireland is extremely positive.
If you’re shopping for a Christmas present this year, maybe give a games console or some League of Legends vouchers a thought. Your kids could be paying off your mortgage in no time at all.