More traditional American sports may need to be on the lookout: There is a new competitive addiction rising and its name is eSports.
eSports, or competitive gaming, has long been a phenomenon in Asia, but in the last couple of years Americans have begun to take up the events both as competition and spectator events. Games like “League of Legends,” “Dota 2,” “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” and “Hearthstone” have gone from being fun hobbies too arena-filling, seven-figure prize pool events.
A U.S. national study, done by Frank N. Magid Associates, shows the massive uptick in eSports interest in the last few years. The study found that nearly 70% of Americans, from 8 to 64 years old, play some type of game, and of that group 18% have watched eSports online or attended an event. The year before that only 12% had watched or attended an eSports event and in 2013 it was only 9%. That is a growth rate of 100% in the last two years alone.
“I have watched eSports gamers grow from unknown kids with no money to their names, to a big business with paid teams and leagues, record-breaking stream numbers, 7-figure sponsorships, million-dollar prize winnings, and global media exposure,” Stan Press, managing director at Magid, said. “The eSports industry is primed to grow at an incredible pace over the next few years.”
eSports is being viewed as much more than just a fad that could blow away at any time. Companies and news outlets are both creating new ways to focus on the growing eSports community. ESPN recently launched a new vertical for its website and magazine specifically devoted to competitive-gaming coverage, while “Call of Duty” developer Activision hired Steve Bornstein, former CEO of ESPN and NFL Network, to be the chairman of its new eSports division.
“To me the storytelling was so compelling and so powerful,” Chad Millman, editor-in-chief of ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine, said. “People were so engaged with the coverage. It felt like we were doing a disservice to ourselves and a disservice to the audience if we didn’t take this as serious as everything else.”