E-sports is here to stay so it’s time we began to understand how it got here, who is behind it and what exactly it is
SCMP Sport launches a series of articles looking at the who, what, how and why of the burgeoning e-sports industry
E-sports is shaping lifestyles, careers, investment and even government policy around the world.
Game developer Activision Blizzard’s international city-based franchise, Overwatch League, is full-steam ahead, with teams reportedly selling for up to US$20 million.
Chinese internet giant Tencent has announced plans to invest US$15 billion into Chinese e-sports in the next five years. And the Hong Kong Tourism Board is presenting its HK$35 million e-sports gambit – the e-sports and K-pop music festival – this weekend in the Coliseum.
They are all part of a broader trend sweeping the worlds of sports, business and media from Los Angeles to Shanghai.
Announcements are made weekly of million-dollar prize pools, celebrity team owners (Shaq, Ashton Kutcher), massive team sponsorship deals (Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Vodafone) and serious investments from major media companies (Modern Times Group, Facebook).
The business world is giddy at the prospect of tapping into that most lucrative but tricky of demographics: millennials.
With 385 million e-sports fans around the world it’s easy to see why they’re so fired up.
In the e-sports community, many are delighted to finally get investment that could elevate the scene to the heights of traditional sports.
However, just as many are sounding the alarm at the glut of money that’s flooding the scene. They fear a crash is on it’s way that will set the scene back another 10 years.
Given the eye-watering sums of money being thrown around and the sometimes shocking lack of knowledge of those involved, it’s not hard to see why people are worried.
Even if the trend continues, the future will not be rosy for most of those involved. E-sports joining the big leagues means a repeat of the history of sports. The real history of sports is the business of sports. And that business was brutal. The backroom deals which built global powers like Fifa, the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL had no space for sportsmanship.
E-sports may yet prove itself a different beast. Endemic organisations, professional players, and the massive e-sports fan base regularly captivate with the kind of stories that we’ve come to expect from the socially conscious millennial generation.
E-sports fans are building passionate communities that may yet temper corporate ambitions.
We will introduce you to the world of e-sports, tell some of the most interesting stories, and guess (roughly) what the future may hold.
The business world sees e-sports as a massive opportunity. Major players – game developers, traditional sports, media and advertising – see it fitting nicely into the well-defined and immensely lucrative existing framework. Endemics on the other hand, see it as a cultural movement that can forge its own path, upending the sports and business worlds in the process. We’ll take a look at the biggest deals and their impact on the business landscape.
2 People & Society
For those seeking to build a career in e-sports, the business is a roller coaster of heartbreak and elation. Players are betting their future on a place at the top of the professional scene. The scene is a window into the world of a new generation.
Fans see e-sports and participation in the scene as the evolution of competitive spirit. For those born in the age of the internet, traditional sport fails to deliver on the levels of engagement they enjoy in e-sports. Many are capitalising on this, making a living – and in some cases huge incomes – on Twitch and other platforms where they can connect with like-minded individuals. The mainstream rolls its eyes or shakes its head in disbelief.
E-sports isn’t just a dream for individuals. Governments are shaping legislation around it, and others, such as the Hong Kong Tourism Board are even staking the future of entire sectors on it.
E-sports was born in the arcade, and brought up in the era of social media. As a natural partner to technology, e-sports has amazing potential. New businesses are being founded all the time with the aim of meeting the needs of the scene. And many believe e-sports could be the area where the promise of augmented reality and virtual reality comes true.
4 What is it?
E-sports is many different things to many different people. For the mainstream it’s an exciting new phenomenon. For e-sports fans it’s the evolution of a scene that traces its roots back to the competitive gaming and arcade scene of the ’70s and ’80s. E-sports is complicated and frequently misunderstood. The development is also not always viewed positively by those involved in the wider gaming community. We’ll take a closer look at the different games and their cultures, the different aspects of the scene, and we talk to those involved to get their perspectives on what e-sports is to them.
5 The Future
Lastly, we’ll take a stab at where e-sports might be going, the factors at play that will determine which road the scene will go down, and the potential impact it could have on those involved, business, and society as a whole. We’ll discuss some possibilities, and get opinions of those who really understand the scene.
The only thing that’s certain is that it’s here to stay, in some form or another.