Are Esports Becoming More Popular Than Traditional Sports?

Esports are overtaking the competitive world while traditional sports are becoming increasingly outdated.

For those unfamiliar with the world of video games, esports are online multiplayer games that are played for an audience and for prizes. The audience can be live in an arena like a football stadium or it can be online. Though, the video games in esports differ; not all competitive multiplayer games are designed the same.

There are games like “FIFA” and “NBA2K,” which allow gamers to play as players on their favorite sports teams, then there are multiplayer online battle arenas like “League of Legends.”

Additionally, first-person shooters like “Counter-Strike Go” are included in the list of esports, as well as real-time strategy games like “Starcraft.” One thing that each category has in common is that they are all fun to play and now the best players can go pro.

Esports LoL
A live esports “League of Legends” tournament. (Image via Daily Fantasy Insider)

Esports now boast an average viewership of about 250 million people who follow different video game competitions throughout the year. In 2017, “League of Legends” had a record-breaking 364 million unique viewers during the mid-season invitational. To put this in perspective, Super Bowl LI had 111.3 million viewers, so even though esports don’t seem to be mainstream, they most certainly are.

For traditional sports, it’s easy to see people enjoy playing them since you can find others playing basketball in their front yards or playing catch with a baseball. In the United States, it’s harder to realize the popularity of esports because playing video games is limited to the confines of private rooms indoors.

Typically, Americans own their own computers whereas in Eastern countries, internet cafes are more common. In Korea, they have PC Bang’s or (PC Cafe’s) where gamers play their computer games. The United States, on the other hand, does not have a huge PC Cafe culture where this sort of recreation can be seen publicly.

In Korea, PC Bang’s sells snacks and microwavable food, thus providing a social environment for young gamers since they have all they need in one place, and they can focus on creating online clans. Additionally, PC Bang’s are located in lively areas of the city (near shopping centers, Korean barbecues and ramen restaurants) making them popular gathering places.

Although some may think that watching other people play video game sounds boring (nostalgic memories of an older sibling or friend hogging an Xbox controller may come to mind), the hype around esports says something different.

On the “League of Legends” subreddit r/leagueoflegends, fans get into deep discussions on strategy and players similar to how baseball fans talk about batting averages and pitching styles. Some teams even have their own memes, which goes hand in hand with internet troll culture.

When BBQ Olivers, which is owned by Korean company BBQ Olive, wins a match, you can find fans commenting “raise your cocks” all over the Reddit forum. Esports fans can get just as rowdy as fans for any other sports team.

Instead of competing for viewership, traditional sports teams have ended up attaining their own competitive esports teams, finding esports to be a smart investment opportunity.

To name a couple of the big-name teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors both have “League of Legends” teams named “100 Thieves” and “Golden Guardians,” respectively. Other organizations that own esports teams include the Houston Rockets, Samsung and Disney.

In the past, Samsung owned two “League of Legends” championship teams that dominated the online game and were so good that they ended up in the finals together, sweeping all other competition. Investing is not limited to creating teams for multiple online battle arena games like “League of Legends,” or first-person shooters like “Counter-Strike Go.”

Professional basketball teams and soccer teams have invested in paying gamers to dominate “NBA2K” and “FIFA” online. Really, any online multiplayer game imaginable has the ability to become an esport and enter the competitive realm.

Professional gamers can be followed on platforms like Twitch. For example, “Fortnite” gamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins boasts more than six million followers and 100,000 subscribers on Twitch and nine million subscribers on YouTube.

Ninja is a celebrity when it comes to online games. He even caught the attention of rap superstar Drake and did a Twitch stream of the two of them playing online. Professional gamers like Ninja make serious money; from his subscribers on Twitch and YouTube, he is estimated to make $500,000 a month from playing “Fortnite.”

PC games are generally more affordable than console games for the PS4 and Xbox One. They can be acquired for free or at relatively cheap prices. The most popular online games right now are “League of Legends” and “Fortnite” and they can be downloaded for free; “Counter-Strike Go,” one of the other top games right now, can be purchased for $15.

So now when someone says that video games are a “waste of time,” know that they’re not and there is a possibility to make a career in gaming.

Abraham Ramirez, University of California, Los Angeles

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Abraham Ramirez

University of California, Los Angeles


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