Everyone who has been on the internet has heard of the term esports. Short for electronic sports, esports refers to video-game competitions played by professional players. The first esports tournament, which was called Red Annihilation, happened in 1997, where about 2,000 participants competed on the video game Quake. Back then, the grand prize was an opportunity to drive off in the Ferrari of the game’s lead developer, John Cormack.
Fast-forward twenty years later, the biggest prize pool for DOTA 2, one of the most popular video games in the world, has reached over $24 million, while Epic Games, an American video game developer, provided over $100 million to fund prizes pools for Fortnite tournament in the 2018–2019 season.
Esports tournaments like the International, League of Legends World Championship, and Kiev Major, are also international events watched by over millions of online viewers and attended by over 20,000 spectators. Some even fly from different countries to witness the competition in person.
Professional esports teams train and prepare for months to compete in world events. The highest-earning esports team, Team Liquid, has earned more than $25 million in 1,451 tournaments while the second highest-earning team, Evil Geniuses, has earned over $20.9 million in 738 tournaments.
Sponsors of esports tournaments are nothing to laugh at. International competitions are funded by big tech companies like Microsoft, Intel, Nvidia, and Oculus.
Esports are so popular that some colleges have started to offer programs for it. The University of California in Irvine was the first public university with a varsity esports program, while Robert Morris University in Illinois is the first private university to create one. Around the world, universities like Garnes Vidaregaande Skule in Norway and Arlanda Gymnasiet School in Sweden are offering esports scholarships to qualified students.
In scale, viewership, and funding, esports is as massive as, if not more, mainstream sports are, but is that enough to consider them a true sport? Check this comprehensive esports infographic by iBUYPOWER and decide for yourself.