Esports is a form of competition that is based on video games. It generally takes the form of organised, multiplayer, videogame competitions that are played either individually or as teams.
Simply put, Esports (commonly referred to as electronic sports) is a competitive sport where the players (often referred to as gamers) use both their physical and mental abilities in order to compete.
Its popularity has surged since the 2000’s when professional gamers began to involve themselves with such contests, a result of which saw a surge in popularity in video game competitions from the general public who started to associate themselves with such events either as spectators or via sponsors of such competitions/teams/players.
As a result, Esports has become a hugely popular phenomenon that continues to grow in popularity and value right till this very day.
Some market projections predict that the global Esports betting market would reach a valuation of $1,860 million by 2026, while other sources already value the industry at $12,670 million!
When 2020 saw nearly all traditional sporting events across the globe either cancelled in their entirety or postponed to a future date, traditional sports organisations and sports event organisers such as The Grand National, Formula 1, Moto GP, the Spanish La Liga and Nascar intensified their interest in the Esports industry by hosting online events.
Most of these events were broadcasted to millions on TV or via streaming services such as Twitch, in order to appease fans, media and sponsors as well as to supplement the loss of revenue from the lack of traditional sports being played/watched.
One of the most fundamental differences between Esports and traditional sports is that the former has a broad eco-system of different actors and does not have the governing body structures that most traditional sports have.
This has led many to ask the pertinent question on whether Esports can be classified as being a sport owing to the fact that it is not a physical activity-based discipline like traditional sports is.
Those advocating for Esports to be classified as a sport argue that it is a fast-growing “non-traditional sport” that requires planning, timing and skilful execution, factors that are seen in most traditional sports. Those not in favour base their arguments on the fact that traditional sports involve physical fitness and physical training, something which Esports cannot match (at best Esports could be classified as a mind sport).
Another unique characteristic of Esports compared to traditional sports is that in the former, many new video games are being created every single year, hence as a concept it continues to be developed, unlike the latter whose style of the game being played remains unchanged (for example, for football, the ball must always be kicked with one’s foot in order to be played).
China was one of the first countries in the world to recognise Esports as a real sport back in 2003.
In early 2019, China went one step further when it started to officially recognise Esports players as an official profession as well as professional gaming operators and those that distribute and manage Esports games within the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.
By July 2019, more than 100,000 people had registered themselves as professional gamers!
Turkey followed a similar route in 2014 when it started issuing Esports licenses to players classified as professionals as well as the government of Ukraine who formally recognised Esports as an official sports competition in 2019.
The 2007 Asian Indoor Games was the first notable multi-sport competition that included Esports as an official medal-winning event alongside other traditional sports.
Since 2018, World Sailing has held an e-Sailing World Championship which was a clear example of a main sports federation embracing Esports.
A summit held by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in October 2017, acknowledged the growing popularity of Esports, concluding that “competitive ‘Esports’ could be considered as a sporting activity, and the players involved prepare and train with an intensity which may be comparable to athletes in traditional sports”.
Any Esports games that are to be played within the Olympics must, however, still fall within the rules and regulations of the Olympic Movement.
The IOC has left the door open to potentially include Esports as a discipline in the 2028 Games scheduled to be held in Los Angeles. Whilst the popularity that Esports brings with it might benefit the IOC (especially when appeasing to younger audiences), questions still remain as to whether Esports fit most of the IOC’s criteria for inclusion.
An Esports Championship is scheduled to make its debut during the 2022 Commonwealth Games taking place in Birmingham, United Kingdom.
Whilst the Esports Championships and Commonwealth Esports Forum will be independent from Birmingham 2022 and its sports programme, this is another clear example of its infiltration with traditional sport competitions owing to its increasing popularity.
Esports continues to grow in its value and in its integration into our culture, leading to global investors, brands, media outlets and consumers alike seeking to continuously involve themselves with such industry.