How did eSports become popular?
eSports have for some time existed at the periphery of the sporting world. In the early 2000s, within North America and Europe, gaming wasn’t looked upon favourably in popular culture. Moreover, the conversation of videos games being considered as potential sporting competitions hadn’t even begun yet. It’s really only been the last decade that the momentum has clearly swung back the other way.
While not yet popular in the Western world, eSports games and tournaments first started to enter the public consciousness at the beginning of the 21st century. In Asia, most notably in China, Japan, and South Korea, a culture had arisen around internet cafes and computer games. Titles like Starcraft, World of Warcraft, and a variety of first-person shooters had built a cult following within a burgeoning gaming sub-culture.
Alongside these titles, publishers and gaming companies like Blizzard Entertainment, Valve Corporation and Riot Games used the energy of these communities to grow a rabid and engaged following around their efforts. The lightning pace of the games being developed coupled with captivating playing environments presented a unique opportunity to market a gaming experience that was truly special at the time. And they certainly took that opportunity well.
We’re not alone in our admiration of games such as Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and StarCraft2. The gaming industrial complex was built around these franchises with established professional leagues, teams, media and advertisers chasing the success of these titles and others by professionalizing the playing and viewing experiences of numerous communities across the world.
The economics around this industry is truly mind-boggling. For example, for the main title of the Dota World Championship more than $25 million dollars was available to win in 2018, with that figure only expected to grow in 2019.