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Media & Technology

The Evolution of Esports: Is Esports a New Industry?

Written by Sam Robertson

Esports started in the 1980s on Arcade Machines, with small tournaments hosted by developers like Taito. Now Esports has become part of mainstream culture, involves large organisations, contracts, big sponsors, TV exposure and adapted technology. Clearly, Esports is the next big thing and will take part in the future of sporting entertainment. However, this didn’t just happen overnight, Esports has had to grow and evolve like any industry, but on a faster scale than any popular industry prior thanks to the gaming industry becoming globally popular. So, how did Esports evolve to become part of an extending industry and where will it go in the future?

“Esports has had to grow and evolve like any industry, but on a faster scale than any popular industry prior thanks to the gaming industry becoming globally popular.”

Esports entered mainstream culture in the past few years. This is directly due to the gaming industry, where gaming has so much variety and the younger generation have taken to it more than regular sports with over two billion global players. Whether it’s RPG’s (Role-playing-games), MMO’s (Massively Multiplayer Online) or sports-inspired games, young people have been like a fly to light in the last decade, expanding gaming’s popularity as an industry on to a new level. This has resulted in the opportunity to develop Esports into the popularity it has now with some tournaments having millions of live viewers. Why? All to see who the best is at their favourite competitive game. Where did this video game exposure and Esports in general, come from?

“young people have been like a fly to light in the last decade, expanding gaming’s popularity as an industry on to a new level.”

Well, it came from the new form of TV known as streaming. This is done by watching live recordings of gaming through Twitch or uploaded videos on YouTube. Clearly, this is part of the Esports industry evolving as with the connection between sports and TV evolves too. Also, since the ever increase of online communities, gaming now has many communities including Esports ones and those communities voice support for the development of Esports which is why it took off so quickly in the last decade. In fact, some Esports like Rocket League’s Esports scene wouldn’t have had the opportunity to become what it is now if not for the communal support for it.

Furthermore, with the growing popularity of competitive gaming, big organisations have also taken to the stage, as its where there is this increasing opportunity for marketing, similarly how there is merchandise for example, for football teams, Esports teams are no different. So, these organisations pick up teams and sign contracts with players just like regular sports so that they can game all the time to maintain their professional future careers as well as keeping up with the best in the game, creating the aspiring new career that is being a pro gamer. Even big well-renowned sports teams like Barcelona and PSG are picking up multiple Esports teams which emphasises just how much Esports has evolved and will continue to in the future.

This is not to mention the involvement of developers and their contact with these organisations that have created more marketing opportunities for in-game items being sold to maintain funding for team contracts and prize pools for tournaments. All this business potential has only strengthened Esports and extended the potential of gaming as a leading industry in developing technology and merging it with this new Esports industry.

This technology refers to creating new ways to play which wasn’t possible with regular sports. This is a limitation that emphasises the growing decline in regular sports among younger people. Such examples include eye-trackers which are used in games like CS: GO for accuracy and spectator modes, eliminating the need for a referee and creating a greater focus on commentary. This is only a plus as video games are so dynamic and action-packed that they are clear, the next evolution for sporting entertainment and maintain the spontaneity that watching regular sports brings. Equally, sports have even tried to adapt to this with the technology of their own like the introduction of VAR in football, but if anything, that has only generated controversy due to stepping away from traditional sporting traits of using the referee’s decision. My decision, however, is that It’s obvious that gaming is the future medium for sports. There is even discussion that Esports maybe even presented in future Olympics which may even get its own in addition to the already existing Esport majors.

Furthermore, with adapting technology it has now become possible for mobile gaming to take off. As well as mobile Esports, including games like Clash of Clans. Yes, professional gaming from your phone or tablet. Although this doesn’t meet the approval of older generations, it’s an adaptation that the younger generation today will evolve now and into the future. There is also, amongst consoles, possibility to compete in games through cross-platform compatibility. Which is something wanted by the gaming community for many years now. Being able to play with your friend on PC or Xbox whilst you are using your PlayStation. Cross-platform compatibility is only just being introduced after many years of discussion, due to the competitive companies in the gaming industry including Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. Some games are implementing this feature like Rocket League, who even allow cross-platform competing in the Esports Scene instead of prioritising their Esports scene on one platform.

What we need to also realise is that Esports as an industry still has a lot of connections to regular sports but is going to be more prominent in our future, as Esports has the advantage of being virtual which is where we can all agree in this digital age is where most of us are spending more and more time in our day to day lives. Sports may be comparable but will decline in the future, as Esports becomes more advanced and may even consume the sports entertainment industry in the distant future. This depends on how much technology will play of a role in our society in the future but is safe to say Esports is here to stay and will continue to evolve as its own sub-industry to both gaming and sports just like it already has in such a short amount of time.