Ten years ago if you had asked anyone if there was a possibility that some of the most coveted athletes on the planet would come from the video game industry, you likely would have received a laugh. However, no one is laughing now.
The competitive video game industry, also known as Esports, has ballooned over the past 5 years, producing staggering viewership statistics that are now rivaling traditional sports such as the NFL and professional soccer. What used to be only a simple hobby is now selling out many of the largest arenas in the world and is now positioned to become a serious player in the sports world. The question, however, is can Esports ever topple traditional sports and reign supreme?
From a historical perspective, some of the most popular sports leagues around the world have been largely driven by their respective superstars. Fans often need to be able to identify with a specific player or personality, which helps produces more enthusiasm for the game itself. Also, it’s essential for fans to feel the impact of their favorite athletes’ contribution to the team’s success. This cocktail for fan engagement is written all across the Esports landscape. Esports has an array of colorful and vibrant personalities on showcase during matches. Also, due to the more intimate nature of watching a live Esports event, many fans feel a closer connection with both the players and the team.
While fan engagement is a critical factor for the continued growth of Esports, other factors could impact if Esports becomes the most popular sporting event in the world. Professional soccer and baseball are two examples of sports that have a relatively low barrier to entry for youths to play around the world. This is why many of the world’s greatest athletes span every continent. The challenge for Esports is that a player’s performance can be significantly affected by many factors, including high-quality gaming peripherals and access to high-speed internet. This could be a potential limitation to growing the best talent around the world, as not every country has fast internet or access to high-quality gaming hardware.
Although the video game industry as a whole is shifting quickly to participate in the Esports frenzy, the industry still has other sectors such as virtual reality that are rapidly maturing. This could potentially attract more potential fans away from the spectatorship of Esports into more profound virtual submersion experiences.
It is probably safe to say that the global interest in Esports will only continue to grow in the years to come.