Esports year on year is becoming more and more popular, it gets more traction, more players, and what follows is increased interest from sponsors and a widening media coverage.
Everyone talks about esports especially out of season for the let’s call it ‘regular’ major sport league events but what is the esports, how has it started, do South African players compete in esports and what games are the most popular to compete in. These and maybe a few more questions we will try to answer.
Wikipedia defines e-sports as “Esports (also known as electronic sports, e-sports, or eSports) is a form of sport competition using video games. Esports often take the form of organized, multiplayer video game competitions, particularly between professional players, individually or as teams.” The e-sport has both its supporters and people that still question it why can you call it a sport when it’s just some ‘kids’ sitting in front of the computer playing video games.
But I think it’s fair to say that the first group is growing year on year which makes sense with XXI century being more of an e-century with younger generations being brought up with computers and internet surrounding them, therefore, esports games are becoming for them what Olympics was for people 10 or even 20 years ago. Even thou esports may not require as much physical prowess as the traditional discipline like pole vaulting, or judo it still requires very similar characteristics, willpower, and some physical attributes as well. Esports competitors spend hours upon hours polishing their skills, as nowadays it’s dominated by professional players and you won’t come across a random player coming in and winning. Of course, depending on the game it requires an in-depth understanding of tactics, has perfect hand-eye coordination and high-stress resistance.
So in my opinion even thou some can question if the esports competitors can be called athletes we cannot take away that only their special skills and incredible perseverance and thousands of hours of training brought them to where they are and allowed them to compete at the highest level. So is it a sport, are the cs players real sportspeople, well I think I’ll leave it to you, but I do encourage you to try to watch a professional match of some of the high-level competitors and I think you may be able to make your judgment I know mine.
Esports, otherwise known as e-sports, or electronic sports history and roots are still a bit questionable, but according to Wikipedia and few other sources, the first-ever competition involving players and video games took place in 1972 in October at Stamford University.
Local students competed in a game of Spacewar, and the price for the winner was a magazine subscription for the Rolling Stones
The esports history even thou it being a new thing deserves a separate article so below we ll try to include at least a few of the major years and events marking milestones in the journey that brought it what it is today.
- 1972 – what is considered the first esports games tournament in-game Spacewar at Stamford University
- The 1970s -80s – Classic arcade games like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong with one of the most well-known players Billy Mitchell had a big impact on spreading the word about the world of competitive gaming in popular newspapers and placed his high scores in the Guinness Book of Records
- 1980 – the founding of an organization called Twin Galaxies focused on promoting video games and organizing tournaments, publishing its records in Guinness Book of World Records
- 1983 – the creation of US National Video Game Team that has helped with running Video Games Masters tournament and helping promote American Video Game Challenge Tournament
- 1990 – Nintendo has started it’s own video games league, and the final of the competition was held in Hollywood
- 1995 – Dennis ‘Thresh’ Frog being known as the first celebrity of esports games has won a Doom tournament at the Deathmatch ’95 event, that reached the first page of Wall Street Journal where he was named the Symbol of a new growing esports phenomenon, it is as well time when first real money came into play. Dennis for first place has received a computer worth over 10 thousand dollars, but it is said that the total of his takings for that year reached over 100 thousand on sponsorships and public appearances.
- 1997 – What is considered a pioneer in professional esports league CPL a Cyberathlete Professional League was created in June in Dallas it was another milestone when John Carmack one of the creators of Quake sponsored Red Annihilation tournament with a grand prize of Ferrari 328GTS one again by no one else but Dennis Thresh Frog
- The 2000s – brought a lot of new leagues and games into play such as Warcraft, Starcraft and brought gaming to a wider audience through the spread of televised video game events, the number of esports tournaments grew from around 10 in the year 2000 to approximately 260 by end of 2010. Some of the most successful tournaments during that decade were:
- World Cyber Games
- Intel Extreme Masters
- Major League Gaming
A massive influence on the growth of the gaming world in general and esports as a natural consequence was the development and rise of streaming services. A great example was Own3d.tv not active anymore now or Twitch.tv being one of the most popular in the world and only growing in subscribers and daily engagement.
The players finally had a place of their own so different from the traditional media where they could share with similar enthusiasts their skills, and at the same time place when professional now esports players can directly interact with their fans and widen their audience.
I think that streaming services are one of the main reasons that brought us to the popularity and the scale of the business that esports has become these days. One of the main advantages and what tops normal events streaming like football or tennis, we don’t only can watch our favorite teams, or competitors playing we can interact with them. On their twitch channels while watching transmissions of esports games we can speak to the players, ask them questions, and on some occasions join their games and special occasional streams run especially for their fans.
Currently the biggest esports tournaments bring millions of spectators before tv screens and monitors in 2018 League of Legend final between two Asian teams brought 127 million spectators watching it at the same time. From streaming channels to dedicated tv esports is on the rise and there doesn’t seem to be sealed to that.
Esports in numbers
- Revenues of esports games exceeded 1 billion dollars in 2019
- The audience of esports tournaments more than 443 million across the globe with predicted to reach over 640 million in 2022 following the average growth of around 15% year on year
- Esports total revenue is predicted to a total of 2.4 billion dollars In 2023
- Esports tournament prize pool is increasing year on year and exceeded 173 million dollars in 2019
- The Fortnite World Cup top prize was 3 million dollars which exceeded the latest 2.4mill cheque that was granted to Wimbledon winner
- Over 60% of the esports revenue comes from sponsorships and advertising
- Highest earning esport player as of March 2020 is Johan Sundstein, Danish player known as N0tail with his earnings totaling 6.89 million US dollars to date from esport gaming
- The Largest pull of winnings in the esports tournament to date is The International that was in Shanghai in August 2019 and featured DOTA 2, the total prizes amounted to 34.4 million US dollars
- Fortnite tournaments had the largest cumulative prize pool with totaling over 64.4 million USD dollars
Most Popular Esports games by the tournament prize pool amount
Esports in South Africa
Even thou the majority of Esports players and interest comes from North America, Europe in Asia doesn’t mean that it’s not present in other markets. South Africa and South African gamers make their mark on the esports arena as well. In 2018 alone the professional players from South Africa have made over 180k euro in esports tournaments and that’s just the placement prizes excluding sponsorship deals. Below you can find a screenshot of the overall earnings of the top 10 competitive South African esports players.
In 2019 South African players placed 64 in the global ranking in terms of esports tournament earnings. South Africa esports scene has 3 of the biggest organizations that run the largest South African esports tournaments
- Telkom VS Gaming
- ACGL tournaments (African Cyber Gaming League)
These are not all the leagues and tournaments running in South Africa but the largest in the region.
Even thou South African players and gamers must face a lot of obstacles, they are still able to be competitive and leave their mark on the international scene. High latency, power outages, sometimes lack South African servers for some of the largest titles doesn’t help it being the level field but hard work and talent allow them to minimize the impact of the technology shortages.