Esports has definitely gained traction since its inception with Quake in 1997. While competitive gaming has been around as long as gaming itself, Quake helped set esports apart from the amateur mode of gaming against friends – by issuing the winner, chosen from the 2000 participants, a Ferrari. Since then, esports has grown 51.7% from 2015’s figures – with the industry producing an estimated $493 million in revenue in 2016 and with overall market revenue set to be around $1 billion by 2019. Newzoo reported that approximately 22% of male millennials watch esports, rivaling the spectators of baseball and hockey in the same demographic. But is esports still overlooked in the eyes of the mainstream media? Certain games gain more media coverage than others – with Dota 2, League of Legends, and FIFA dominating headlines. But should the industry as a whole be doing more to get itself noticed?
Dota 2 Makes Headlines
The Dota 2 International tournament, organised by the Valve Corporation, offers its August 2017 winner the lion’s share of a total prize pool of $24,787,916. This alone shows that esports is big business, yet those who are not already fans will likely not have heard much about it. The generous prize fund was reported on by the likes of Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and even Red Bull, who normally focus on physical sports, which shows the industry is gaining a certain amount of PR. Dota 2 saw 513,494 players log on in September 2017, which shows a healthy interest in actively playing the game – while the number of spectators on Twitch, Steam or other streaming sites is likely higher.
The Bookies Get in on the Action
League of Legends – a more familiar term in mainstream lexicon – is also grabbing its share of headlines. October 2017 saw the beginning of the League of Legends World Championship in China, with a rundown of each day’s events appearing in the sports section of the Daily Mail national newspaper in the UK. League of Legends is the ultimate in what people imagine when they think of esports – and their coverage in major outlets like Telegraph and ESPN reinforces this. Dota 2, League of Legends and FIFA are also available to be bet on through standard betting houses, such as Betway. This shows the rise in esports, as traditionally, betting houses tend to omit esports from their offerings. By showcasing esports in the same format as football, rugby, and NFL, the sport is given an added credibility. The most effective use of having esports included at the bookies is that people who are looking to bet on other things are more likely to enquire about esports and potentially be converted to fans. It is definitely placed in the right location to gain the right kind of viewers, those who are interested in sports betting and may extend this to non-physical sports betting, which has different, and often more interesting, parameters for how to make bets.
What Next for Esports?
At present, esports are gaining ground in sports publications and online where sports aficionados will be looking. However, despite the 385 million cumulative viewers for esports, there is still a lack of mainstream media coverage. While football and rugby tend to stay off the front pages, the lack of coverage of esports in general publications is also preventing them from attracting more viewers. Viewing and playing figures are both high enough to show that the industry is booming, but the fans of esports do little to publicise it to drive up interest. The more people interested in esports, the greater the prizes, the more challenging the competitions, and the more inclusive the social conversations.
Overall, it is clear that esports is moving in the right direction to gain widespread knowledge – and it certainly does achieve the right kind of valuable audiences through its media coverage. There could be more of a push for games that aren’t yet as established as Dota 2 and League and Legends, however, in a bid to try to encourage new people into the gaming world who might be turned off by both major offerings.