Will eSports Ever Hit Mainstream America?
Traditional sports are competitions between teams or individuals that involve athletic prowess, clever strategy, dedication, and lots and lots of practice. Despite what some may say, eSports are no different. Now you may be asking yourself, “what is eSports?” Well, it’s a form of sport that occurs through electronic systems. To say it more clearly, eSports is competitive video game playing. But will eSports ever hit mainstream America?
Some of you may stop reading right there, because after all, how can a video game be compared to a sport in any way? As it turns out, eSports share many of the same requirements as traditional sports. Athletic prowess, in the case of eSports, can be anything from reaction time to mouse accuracy. In a game like Counter Strike: Global Offensive, where no player has a distinct advantage over another to begin, strategy and tactics play a vital role.
There probably isn’t anyone out there who questions the dedication or practice routine of professional eSports players. They spend absurd amounts of hours every day playing the game they compete in, and for good reason. The scene is fiercely competitive, to no one’s surprise. Large cash prizes, bragging rights, and sponsorships are all on the line for players who make their living by winning tournaments. Just like traditional sports, eSports has begun drug testing. However, unlike traditional sports, eSports players are eager to see drug testing implemented. The primary concern isn’t steroids in this case, but an even more accessible drug, Adderall. After all, in a setting like video games, staying focused is crucial, as one slip up might cost you the game.
So hopefully by this point, we’ve convinced our more dubious readers that perhaps, just perhaps, eSports are legitimate sports that a lot of people would actually watch. 32 million Americans watch eSports according to the Wall Street Journal. That means one in ten people in the US watch eSports, and that number is growing every day. With live streaming sites like Twitch.tv and YouTube Gaming, it’s easier than every for fans of a game to watch their favorite players and gaming events from the comfort of their home. Even DraftKings, famous for their traditional sports fantasy leagues, has decided to offer an option to draft fantasy teams for competitive video gaming.
A lot of this growth in the eSports community has been made possible thanks to the internet. Fans have been able to coordinate, organize, and run events for the games they love. There’s another reason for the growth eSports has seen: money. Yes, just like gold drove people to California in 1849, the potential to make money is driving people and companies to the eSports industry. Forbes projects that the eSports industry will surpass $1.9 billion by 2018. That’s a pretty sizable amount, one which companies like RedBull, Coca Cola, and TBS are playing close attention to in hopes of cashing in on this growing industry.
The top 20 competitive gaming tournaments alone account for $63,884,903.05 in prize pool earnings. There is a LOT of money to made in professional gaming, and some of the best players in the world are millionaires because of it.
TBS, in particular, is trying to make a wave in mainstream American TV by introducing Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) to their scheduled programming. Counter Strike is an FPS (First Person Shooter) game in which teams of 5 compete, taking turns either attacking and trying to plant a bomb at one of two bomb sites or defending those two bomb sites. The first team to win 16 rounds wins the match. Every Friday, TBS will broadcast the matches from the first televised season of CS:GO in the US. This is a huge step towards bringing eSports to mainstream America, but there are definitely concerns. On one hand, this is exposing more people to the joys of competitive gaming. However, this is a double-edged sword, because if TBS fails to run a smooth season, or there are issues with players or sponsors, or simply no one watches, it could set back mainstream eSports another 5-10 years. They seem to be aware of this risk, though, as they’re scheduling the matches for Friday night, which is traditionally where TV shows go to die since most people aren’t watching TV on a Friday night. However, eSports defy a lot of sporting norms, and Friday nights might be perfect timing for the viewer base of CS:GO.
Will eSports catch on in America? It’s a tough question, but one that will be answered in time. If TBS pulls off their CS:GO season and there’s a large enough viewer base, it could be the start of other major networks adopting eSports. If it fails, however, we may see a return to grassroots eSports if companies and sponsors aren’t willing to put more money into the industry. Only time can tell, but it’s a step in the right direction for those who love eSports and the community behind it.
What do you think? Should more eSports be broadcast on TV? Will eSports ever hit mainstream America? Or will they crash and burn before they get out of the starting gate?
*Header image courtesy of flickr.com*