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The explosive rise of video games in the 21st century has changed sports as we know it, as gaming has gone from just another form of entertainment to a multi-million dollar industry in just a few years.
In a world dominated by technology and entertainment, video games quickly became popular worldwide, especially since the release of Sony PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles. The technology, graphics, and gaming titles are very much the reasons behind such a huge fan base.
This popularity has also led to the interest in eSports. They are now the most sought-after form of entertainment worldwide, as they continue to make their way into mainstream sports, with events now being broadcasted by TBS and ESPN.
The infographic below created by NJGames displays the rise in viewership over the last few years. The enterprise went from having an audience of just 134 million viewers to 335 million between 2012 and 2017, almost triple the amount. With the popularity and revenue still on the rise, that number is expected to reach 557 million by 2021.
eSports events these days draw more crowds than mainstream sports. For instance, the League of Legends tournament held in 2016 drew 36 million viewers worldwide, 5 million more than the NBA final.
The internet has undoubtedly played the most significant part in the rise of eSports. Most spectators fell in love with it by watching videos posted by professionals. Streaming services like Twitch and YouTube are used by gamers to share their experience with other gamers, fans, and enthusiasts online.
Twitch allows anyone to live-stream themselves while gaming and share experience online with others. The site now has over 2 million streamers per month, with 9.7 million active daily users.
Millions watch games like Dota 2, League of Legends, and StarCraft on Twitch on a daily basis. This site also streams the biggest eSports competitions, drawing millions of viewers globally.
YouTube also plays a big part in promoting eSports. Gamers post progress and gaming experience on YouTube for followers and other fellow players to see. Popular titles like Fortnite and League of Legends have had millions of hours in viewing on the site. Highlights from eSports championships are also posted here, with the Dota 2 championships having over 4 million views.
Lastly, Mixer is a streaming service that was recently bought by Microsoft and currently boasts the lowest latency rate compared to all other streaming channels today. Currently, there is less than a 1-second delay on Mixer, providing live action to the spectators even faster. In comparison, all the other streaming services average 10-20 second delays.
The popularity of eSports has seen the amount of money involved increase year after year. Professional gamers are now some of the highest paid individuals worldwide, while championships have budgets in hundreds of millions.
Kuro Takhasomi is the top individual esports earner with over $4 million earned from his gaming winnings in DOTA 2. In fact, the top 3 eSports athletes as of 2017 were all DOTA 2 players.
The International DOTA 2 Championship had a prize pool of approximately $26 million, with the best gamers given cash prizes of $2 million and above.
Betting on eSports
Such figures are usually seen in the mainstream sports, but with the amount of money involved in gaming being on the rise, it is no surprise that punters have taken betting to this corner of the sports industry as well.
Around $5.5 billion was wagered on major eSports titles in 2016. In the near future, betting on virtual sports could prove to be a wiser investment than wagering on mainstream sports.
With talks of adding professional gaming to the Olympics and future championships set to break online viewing records, professional gaming is bringing a whole new dimension to entertainment.