Nearly 300 million spectators. 500 million fans. A future valued at more than a billion dollars in 2020. Esports may have started out as an additional means of making some extra pocket money back in the ‘70s but, by the 2000s, professional gamers had made their mark. Increase in spectatorship re-affirmed the undeniably bright future of esports.

Present Professionals

Today, there are instances of professional gamers making millions from tournaments. The richest player, Kuro “KuroKy” Takhasomi, DotA player and part of Team Liquid, has made $3,549,039.35 over a decade. The team is known for its “silent and deadly” gameplay. Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora has raked in $2,953,956.27 and is ranked #3 worldwide, #1 in the US. He has already won $168,000 this year from 2 tournaments. Sumail Hassan moved to the US to further his DotA 2 career at the age of 15. Featured in Time Magazine 2016 as one of the most influential teenagers, Sumail is the youngest player to have earned $1,000,000 gaming. His total earnings to date are $2,676,991.94. Sasha Hostyn, with $200,693.82, is the highest earning female esports player in the world.

These gamers and their stories have inspired a whole generation to look at esports as a viable career option. It is – if you’re willing to put in the work and effort required.

Current Landscape

Like any career, professional gaming requires persistence and dedication. Currently, the hurdles to enter the industry as a gamer are a little higher, with people vying for the same top titles, as seen in the graph below – League of Legends (which averages around a 100 million players), Starcraft II (with 2.4M players competing), DotA 2 and so on. This doesn’t allow newcomers to make their mark as easily as the early professionals of the early 2000s. To add to their woes, the world of esports is largely unstructured.

Fortunately, with blockchain-based esports entities cropping up, there are now more opportunities for new gamers and small studios to compete and showcase games, respectively, with greater security. Additionally, with technology becoming cheaper and more accessible, the number of professional gamers and esports tournaments is set to increase. Perhaps the most telling change, however, is the blurring of lines between esports and traditional gaming. The adoption of esports by traditional sports organisations has been one of the main reasons for the spike in competitive gaming popularity.

 

Traditional Organisations x Esports

Marcus “ExpectSporting” Jorgensen was signed by Manchester City to represent the club in FIFA in PlayStation 4 competitions; Google has added a livescore feature for esports; the States’ Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers and Houston Rockets are backing 3 of 10 top teams competing in the North American League Championship series this year.

Even Disney has acquired 21st Century Fox, owns 75% stake in BAMTech, and chose 3 esports-centric entities for its Accelerator programme – aXiomatic, an esports ownership group and Epic Games, developer/publisher of Gears of War and Fortnite. This is of some import primarily due to the massive size of Disney and its existing, loyal audience – in Gen Y and Gen Z. Collaborating with or owning esports entities gives Disney the opportunity to expand its already popular products (films, entertainment, merchandise) into an up-and-coming, potentially viral medium. For esports, this translates into a definitive vote of confidence, securing its present and reinforcing its future potential.

The International Market

China, having gained more than US $37,945M (data below) in esports revenue, as of June 2018, has towns that are building stadiums specifically for esports tournaments. This provides increased opportunities for esports aspirants to enter the market in Asia. However, with increase in access, competition is also bound to increase. Asia, particularly China, is driving the thriving esports market. According to article in Forbes:

“…there are 100 million eSports fans in China now. They watch professional competitions, either live or online, on many video sites that are China’s answer to Twitch…ESPN and Tencent, the largest online games company in China, and one of the largest Internet companies in the world by market cap, have recently teamed up to cover sports in China.”

 

Esports: Here to stay

Esports has expanded to the extent that it now has subsets, the most common being real-time strategy (RTS), fighting, first-person shooter (FPS), multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA). There is some debate regarding MOBA’s status as a stand-alone genre.

The increasing number of opportunities, the support of major players in traditional industries, and the ever-expanding nature of esports has established competitive video gaming as a phenomenon that is here to stay.

All said and done, is esports a worthy career option?

The simple answer is ‘Yes’. However, the world of esports isn’t just for competitive gamers, of course. It has created inexhaustible opportunities for writers, developers, media managers, coaches, designers – art and fashion, player psychologists, and commentators. If you want a piece of the action but can’t game, you can always consider the aforementioned subsets of a career in gaming. Alternatively, you could don the cap of a spectator and cheer your favourite players on during tournaments.

So, what do you think? Planning on dipping your professional toes in esports waters?