An eSport is a multiplayer video game that is played competitively. While traditional sports games may be played on green, green grass or with a bat and ball, eSports are typically played in front of screens. You’re far more likely to get eye strain or get a repetitive strain injury from clicking the mouse a little too hard than you are to pull a hamstring.
It is estimated that, by 2020, 70 million people will tune into an eSports final. eSport competitions such as the League of Legends World Championship, the Dota 2 Internationals and the FIFA eWorld Cup (the eSports version of the real football world cup) have massive prize pots so expect this to make an impact.
But despite this high, estimated viewership, many people still need to refer back that definition of eSports just to understand what it actually is. So, with that in mind, we ask, what does eSports need to go mainstream?
eSport Needs More Mainstream Games
A significant reason why eSports hasn’t hit the big time, so to speak, is that many of the games that are popular on an eSports level aren’t part of mainstream culture (in the West, at least). Games like Blizzard Entertainment’s RTS StarCraft are a common talking point in South Korea, with the country’s Air Force even having a professional StarCraft team. But, in the United States and Western Europe, it’s far less of a hot property. the Riot Games MOBA is an unknown quantity for most. The same goes for mobile MOBA Honor of Kings which is so popular in China that a scripted TV spin-off is being made but it took seven months for the game to make $3 million in revenue following its release in the United States (where it is called Arena of Valor). Overwatch, Call of Duty and FIFA are all games that are popular in the West and the East but they can’t do it alone. That’s why the popularity of Fortnite, which is played by more than 125 million people and has featured in mainstream news reports around the world because of its success, stands to change things. With more megahit multiplayer titles like this making waves across the world and appealing to gamers no matter their location, eSports will become more popular too.
eSport Needs Better Narratives
The meta of these games is also complex and can be difficult to understand but something that most seem to ‘get’ is human emotion. eSport is filled with huge potential when it comes to drama: from underdog teams to players who succeed even though they practice with massive lag or have parents who don’t support their eSports dreams. Or the fan-favorite teams who have star players that everybody loves. Traditional sports have tapped into this with betting and the rise of eSports betting shows us how the sector is becoming more mainstream. The League of Legends World Championships are currently taking place, for instance, and eSports odds only give fans more of an idea of who to look out for. The odds that G2 Esports will beat the Afreeca Freecs are 27/100 but, vice versa, the odds are 13/5. The odds between the two teams are slim then, meaning that there will be much debate on not just who will win the match but whether they deserve to. Once people begin rooting for a particular eSports team – so much so that they are willing to place a bet and put actual money on it, that’s how it will engage even the biggest of naysayers and finally go mainstream.
For eSports fans who would like to see the industry go mainstream, there are already brands working on this. For example, the recent announcement that the Premier League is launching a new FIFA eSports competition with EA is a major step forward in making eSports mainstream. It will take a lot more than that, but it’s a big deal nonetheless.