If you are not aware, esports is now a huge industry worth billions of dollars. Gone are the days where the occupation of ‘a professional gamer’ was considered geeky and sad. The top esports athletes of today are earning millions of dollars every year and are watched and adored by millions of fans. Audiences have never been closer to their sporting idols as they are with esports. The most popular esports games are usually free to play – with enough dedication a young fan can follow in his/her idols footsteps as long as they have an internet connection.
Esports has reached a stage where online and live audiences are now able to bet on the outcome of live esports matches and tournaments, like they would if they were watching a traditional sport such as football or tennis - click here for the most up-to-date esports betting odds. Indeed, esports are already competing with traditional sports in terms of viewership, following and overall growth. Traditional sports such as football and basketball have begun to invest in esports as a way of advertising themselves to fans
Iain Fenton, writing for ‘BrooWaha’ gives us a sneak peek into the world of esports and runs us through a top four list of the most popular esports.
League of Legends
The most popular esports game is currently League of Legends or LoL as it is affectionately known worldwide. LoL is an online multiplayer battle arena game played on the PC. It is easily the most watched stream on twitch - the primary medium for professional esports coverage - and has the largest footprint of any game within streaming communities. In 2016, the company that developed Lol – Riot Games – suggested that there are over 100 million active players playing LoL each month. According to statistics website Newzoo.com, LoL is both the most watched and most played PC game in the world.
League of Legends has one of the largest competitive scenes in the world. LoL esports tournaments take place all over the globe. Regional LoL tournaments exist in USA, China, South Korea and various other regions. These regional tournaments climax at the annual World Championship. The 2016 LoL World Championship had a prize pool of over $6million and an audience viewership of 43 million unique viewers. LoL is both free and easy to play but almost impossible to master.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) is a multi-player first person shooter game. A different kind of game to LoL completely, CS: GO pits two teams against each other where teams are tasked with eliminating one another whilst completing certain objectives. CS: GO is currently the most watched esport in the UK and is LoL’s closest competitor for the number one most watched esports franchise on Twitch. CS: GO won the esports game of the year award in 2015.
Like LoL, CS: GO is deceptively easy to learn and follow if you are watching a stream of CS: GO gameplay but mastering the game – good luck with that.
Officially released in 2013, Dota 2 is an online battle arena multiplayer game. Similar to LoL, Dota 2 is played in matches between two teams that consist of five players. Each of the 10 players independently controls a title character, each one, of more than a hundred title characters have their own unique skill and ability set to use in matches. A team wins by being the first to destroy their opponents ‘ancient’ - a large structure located in the opposing teams base.
Dota 2 was the third most watched game on Twitch during March 2017. Some major gaming publications, including PC Gamer, have called Dota 2 one of the best computer games of all time. Since its release in 2013, Dota 2 has been the most played game on Steam with over 630,000 average players per hour in 2016, nearly double that of the game in second place.
Dota 2 tournaments and league events are also hugely popular with audiences. Last month, the best Dota 2 players in the world competed at the Kiev Major where a prize pool of $3 million – one of the biggest prize pools in esports history – was competed for. The game has been known to become a “way of life” for many players – the addictiveness of the game has been likened to gambling and poker. Some universities in Asia and America have even held Dota 2 seminars teaching students the fundamentals and core skills to use in the game.
Although the FIFA football franchise has been around the gaming scene for decades, it is a relative new comer to the esports scene. For those of you who don’t know, unlike other games on this list, FIFA 17 is primarily played on a games console rather than a PC, although it is possible to play on the PC. FIFA is a football game, it’s not complicated, it’s not particularly strategy based – it is just football. However, it’s popularity is growing.
Real football clubs across the world have now seen the value in esports. Major European football clubs such as PSG, Roma and Spartak Moscow have signed professional esports FIFA athletes to represent them at esports tournaments. These football clubs are recognizing the huge audiences that esports are attracting and the massive growth in the sector. Two of the biggest clubs in the world – Barcelona and Real Madrid are expected to announce an esports team in the near future. Television broadcasters have begun buying the rights to air esports FIFA tournaments on their channels. Fox Sports in the USA and BT Sports in Europe are the first TV channels to do this. The growth of FIFA as an esport is set to become massive, it is just up to the FIFA developers - EA – to provide a game capable of being balanced and competitive enough for professional gamers to compete in.
Regional FIFA tournaments have already taken place and this year Berlin is set to host the first ever FIFA Ultimate Team Championship Finals where the best FIFA competitors in the world will compete for a prize of over $1 million.