Gone are the days when Esports were mocked as the pastime of a deluded, lazy youth. Nowadays, Esports has become a massive thing, drawing tens of millions of fans from across the entire world and spawning a $1.5 billion industry today.
Everyone is rooting for their favorite video game players, or teams, duking it out in a variety of multiplayer games and winning huge sponsorships and cash prizes. Popular blogs like Gaming Garden are popping up everywhere, providing tips and tricks for the passionate gamer. Games like Dota 2, League of Legends, Overwatch, and Fortnite are by far the most popular “disciplines”, with fighting games such as Street Fighter, WWE 2K, and Tekken 7 coming close behind. Let’s dive in and see what the Esports craze is all about.
The History of Competitive Gaming
While it may seem like a very new phenomenon, the truth is that Esports is almost 50 years old now.
It all began back in 1972 with the appearance of one of the very first home video game consoles, called the “Magnavox Odyssey.” People were finally able to play games at home, in front of their TVs, but also… To compete against friends and family members!
Not long after, Atari introduced their consoles and organized the first public, large-scale Esports tournament in 1978. Hundreds flocked to duke it out against their competitors in classic games such as Pong and Space Invaders. Further tournaments followed in 1979, and 1980, drawing tens of thousands of players.
It was clear that Esports was here to stay.
In the following decades, gaming tournaments only increased in popularity, featuring games such as Mortal KOmbat, Street Fighter, and the such. RTS games soon took over the torch, with Starcraft 2 tournaments drawing more than 50 million viewers in the 2000s.
After the super popular World Cyber Games and the Electronic Sports World Cups, 2002 saw the establishment of Major League Gaming (MLG). MLG remains one of the world’s most prominent organizers for Esports to this very day, hosting tournaments for League of Legends, Dota 2, Fortnite, Overwatch, Apex: Legends, and other popular games.
Current Esports Trends and How Wrestling and Fighting Games Are Taking Over
Starcraft 2, once synonymous with Esports, has long since been overshadowed in popularity by League of Legends, Dota 2, CS:GO, and Overwatch tournaments. However, there’s a new competitor in town – fighting and wrestling games.
Or rather, an old competitor, since fighting games have always been integral to Esports, and have largely dominated the 90s. While popular MOBA games such as LoL and shooters like CS:GO still command the majority of the viewership, fighting and wrestling games are not to be underestimated. According to Esports Insider, fighting and wrestling games such as Super Smash Bros, Tekken 7, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat 11, and Brawlhalla have a combined audience of more than 150 million people and rising.
While these results may not be impressive compared to the behemoths of CS:GO or League of Legends, games that command almost a billion viewers, it is important to note that those viewerships are showing signs of stagnation, while audiences for wrestling and fighting games are on a constant rise.
Biggest Games and Players in Esports
The field of Esports keeps fluctuating, with games replacing others in popularity, and with new, upcoming players vanquishing others. Here’s an overview of the biggest games and players in Esports:
League of Legends
Millions of players compete in this, perhaps the most popular MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game in existence. With billions of viewers over the years, League of Legends has spawned legendary players such as Faker, Rookie, Uzi, Canyon, Caps, TheShy, Madlife, BeryL, and many others.
Dota 2 is the second most popular MOBA game but has spawned just as many tournaments and a massive following. Popular players include N0tail, Miracle-, Arteezy, ana, Dendi, Puppey, KuroKy, Sumail, and many more.
Stands for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and is probably the most popular first-person shooter in Esports commanding the largest audience. Most notable players include s1mple, Mathieu Herbaut, ropz, Nikola Kovač, Twistzz, Marcelo David, dupreeh, and more.
Routinely mocked among adult gamers as the “kid’s shooter game”, Fortnite has nonetheless seen a massive rise in popularity with huge cash prizes. Some of the best Fortnite players are Kami, Queasy, Bugha, Veno, Mero, Anas, Setty, JannisZ, and others.
Why Is Esports Such a Big Deal?
The correct answer here would perhaps be: why not? Video games have been a part of our lives for decades now, providing pleasure and entertainment to millions of people. It was only a matter of time before games formed their competitive aspect, and allowed the best players to also make a living out of their skill.
And needless to say, today, Esports is truly a humongous industry showing no signs of slowing down. In 2021, the Esports market was valued at US$ 1.22 billion worldwide, growing to US$ 1.39 billion in 2022. By 2029, Esports is predicted to grow to a market of almost $6 billion – and that is why Esports is such a big deal.