With licensed Pro Gamers, huge sponsorship deals, and millions of online viewers, eSports seems to have finally cracked into the mainstream media. What started as a small college competition back in the 70s has taken the world by storm today, turning competitive gaming into a serious money maker.
Even the US, which long ignored the eSports phenomenon, has woken up to its increasing dominance and is making rapid strides into the burgeoning business. But long used to the culture of traditional sports, how are regular Americans taking to this new emerging trend? Are they wary that it is fast redefining sports entertainment, or are they eager to jump on the eSports bandwagon? Piplsay (powered by Market Cube) finds out*:
Given the buzz around it, it is not surprising that almost 60% of Americans today are aware of eSports. Though it’s popularity and revenue is no match to that of Basketball, Football, etc. it nevertheless is gaining a lot of attention. With traditional sports moguls like Micheal Jordan and celebrities like Drake investing into esports teams, and brands like Intel and Nike sponsoring major tournaments and leagues, eSports has started to look a lot like professional sports. The staggering prize pool, record viewership numbers, structured scheduling, and salaries that pro gamers draw, further blur any remaining distinction.
The 2018 DOTA 2 tournaments had a total prize pool of $41.26 million, just short of the Wimbledon 2018 prize of $43.8 million
Similarly, the 2017 League of Legends world championship drew over 106 million viewers, almost at par with the 2018 Superbowl audience. Playing a critical role in the promotion of esports have been streaming platforms like YouTube and Twitch. From live-streams of competitions, eSports channels to personal streams of players, these platforms offer a lot of options for fans to stay engaged. Close to 40% of Americans today watch eSports streamers, and about 28% of them follow their favorite teams on their channels. While the older generation still prefers watching traditional spectator sports, it’s mostly the teens and millennials who are driving up the demand for esports.
The growing interest in professional gaming among the younger generation has started reflecting across the country as well. An increasing number of schools and colleges today have their own eSports programs, with a few even offering athletic scholarships to professional players. Even athletic associations like NCAA and NAIA are inching towards formally including esports in varsity collegiate sports.
All of this also comes under the larger debate of whether esports should be given the same legitimacy as traditional sports. While fans undoubtedly want it to be treated at par, as reiterated by 32% of Piplsay respondents, skeptics have a hard time associating eSports with ‘real’ sports, given the lack of physical exertion and health concerns. Still, this argument doesn’t take away the fact that gaming is a serious profession. Not only do pro gamers train 8-10 hours a day perfecting their skills and techniques, many even follow a strict diet and fitness regimen to stay on top of the game. With so much investment and exposure, including national broadcasts on ESPN and ABC, the esports industry in America has become too big to be ignored. The rising fandom is proof of that.
*Based on 18,800 online responses