“You idiot! Switch that off, and do your homework. You’ll never get a job playing video games.”
The words still ring in my head when I think of my school years, being chided by my father who was determined that I’d become a lawyer or a doctor.
Well, who’s the idiot now? What if I told you there are people all over the world who get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to play video games? And that they have armies of fans, train like elite athletes, have corporate sponsors and they fill stadiums? You’d call me a fantasist. Well it’s true, all of it.
Welcome to the world of international eSports.
The nearest I’ve been able to come to sticking a middle finger up at my father’s claim is by working on gaming where, along with the serious client side of the work, I get to play the latest AAA releases all in the name of research.
Gaming was once a realm solely occupied by teenagers, students and the unemployed, holed up in their bedrooms for hours on end. It has now become a multi-billion dollar industry where everyone from toddlers to grandparents have games targeted at them.
The eSports industry is the current growth sector of the gaming industry, with games like “League of Legends”, “Dota” and “Smite” dominating the global market. The prize pools for these tournaments can reach into the tens of millions of US dollars, and the 2014 final of the League of Legends World Championship filled a 40,000 seat stadium. Weren’t expecting that, were you!
At a local Australian level, Mindfreak, a team sponsored by tech brand Plantronics, is one of the many teams to compete at the international level with one of the biggest gaming franchises. They regularly take on some of the best teams in the US and Europe, and in the 2015 World Championships they placed 6th overall – the only non-US team to break into the top 10. Their team captain, “Buzzo”, has already begun receiving media attention, with interviews on Fox Sports and News.com.au, and he’s gaining notoriety in the industry, particularly around his fitness routine.
Most of the “eSports athletes”, as the players are known, adopt rigorous fitness training regimes too. To keep their energy levels and concentration levels honed, the regimes can involve cardio workouts, strict eating plans and weight training. Gameplay in tournaments, and even training, can easily stretch to over ten straight hours, so the players’ minds and bodies need to be able to cope with that level of intense focus and concentration.
On the money end of the deal, sponsorship is one of the things all teams covet. In the US, Red Bull has been sponsoring and working with professional gamers since 2008. They’re so serious about it, that currently they are developing an eSports training facility in Santa Monica. The aim is to measure, deconstruct, and train key gaming skills—with the goal to enhance the performance of novice and pro gamers.
With this level of investment being pumped into the industry at an early stage, the future of eSports is sure to be a long and prosperous one. eSports is the newest addition to the entertainment industry and it’s here to stay.
As the sector grows, with it so do others. Fox Sports has plans in play to start streaming competitive gaming content and, as a result, advertising and marketing opportunities have already begun to appear for the online streaming. Following that, the sponsorship for teams will become increasingly competitive, and eventually collaborations and spaces once reserved for the likes of soccer and tennis stars, will be even more contested. Billboards emblazed with the images of the hottest and newest stars on the competitive gaming circuit will become the norm, promoting the latest technologies, fitness wear or energy drinks.
Who knows, one day eSports may even be an Olympic event.
I may be wrong, but 15 years ago you’d be hard pressed to find a 17 year old earning hundreds of thousands of dollars for playing video games. If only I’d stuck to playing games, I could have been rich by now! Idiot? Indeed…