The Wide World of Esports

How the competitive world of esports has evolved from small competitions to arena battles.

The world of competitive, organized video gaming, also referred to as esports is a rapidly growing industry, though not a new one. Esports competitors from different leagues or teams compete against one another in the same game such as Fortnight, League of Legends, Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, Overwatch or Madden NFL for prizes. These competitions take place in a multiplayer setting and can last as long as eight hours. 

There are varying types of esports tournaments, which include: 

  • First-person shooter events like Call of DutyApex Legends 
  • Multiplayer online battle arena events such as League of Legends and Dota 2 
  • Fighter game events including Mortal Kombat and Super Smash Bros 
  • Sports game events like Madden and NBA2K 
  • Other events such as card games and real-time strategies 

While many of the larger events are watched in person, a large fan base watches esports through streaming services. Twitch, the world’s leading video platform and community for gamers, boasts more than 45 million gamers a month who broadcast, watch and chat. To shed some light on the astounding number of viewers, the 2017 League of Legends World Championship drew more than 80 million viewers, making it one of the most popular esports competitions ever. A few generic statistics surrounding those who play indicate that esports is here to stay: 

  • There are roughly 450 million total viewers of esports as of 2019. That number is expected to surge over the next few years. 
  • 79% of those viewers are under 35 years old. 
  • The audience on YouTube and Twitch is larger than HBO, Netflix and ESPN combined. 
  • 57% of esports enthusiasts come from the Asia-Pacific region. 
  • Women make up more than 30% of today’s audience. 

Though it may seem as if esports has come on to the AV scene recently, tournaments can trace their roots back to 1972, when a Space Invaders Championship yielded 10,000 participants. The Spacewar! tournament took place at Stanford University, and the winner received a one year’s subscription of Rolling Stone magazine. By 1980, video game competitions were more mainstream, and Atari held a Space Invaders Championship.  

However, the 1997, Red Annihilation tournament is considered to be one of the first true esports competitions. 2,000 entrants went online in Quake. By 1998, a Starcraft 2 tournament on PC boasted more than 50 million online viewers, 17 million of those coming from Twitch.  

161 esports tournaments were held in 2009, but by 2012 that number had shot up to 696 and continued to rise. Likewise, $2 million in annual prize money in 2009 became $10 million by 2012. Currently, prize pools for both the 2019 Dota 2 International and the 2019 Fortnite World Cup surpassed $30 million. What started as a “nerdy” endeavor has become a multimillion dollar, now almost billion-dollar, industry including sponsorships, media deals and advertising. 

All this to say, esports is here to stay. It’s a growing AV market that can’t be ignored. It’s an inclusive and diverse set of people who play, and all of them need the right equipment to stand out. Arenas are being built to highlight the players, and the rise of Twitch streamers turned influencers has led to esports reaching a much broader audience. Furthermore, colleges are hopping on to the bandwagon by creating scholarships, esports programs and even building arenas on campus. Currently, 175 colleges have official varsity teams in the National Association of Collegiate esports League, and 314 colleges have teams that officially compete in the Tespa chapter. What was once niche has leveled up to mainstream.