Esports are on the up and up, so we thought we’d put together a quick look at six interesting facts, ranging from recent highlights to competitive gaming shenanigans from the 1980s.
Fact 1: More Prize Money than Wimbledon
Esports go from strength to strength, which perhaps isn’t surprising given that the videogame industry is bigger than Hollywood. The advent of streaming has also been a shot in the arm for competitive videogames.
In 2019 the inaugural Fortnite World Cup was held in New York. And the top prize was a cool US$3m. The contest was held at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, the main arena of the US Open (the last Grand Slam tournament on the tennis calendar). The World Cup followed Wimbledon, and the winner of Fortnite actually won a bigger prize than the singles’ champions Simona Halep and Novak Djokovic.
In fact, anyone finishing in the top four ended up becoming a millionaire. Viewing numbers were also impressive, with the stadium sold out and an estimated audience in excess of two million viewers on Youtube/Twitch.
Competitive esports are still some way behind mainstream sports like soccer, Formula 1, and tennis when it comes to public engagement and total audience figures. But the numbers are rising, and when it comes to prize money esports are already on a similar level to events as established as Wimbledon.
Fact 2: Recognition Saves the Day
Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf had quite a 2019. Not only did he win the Fortnite World Cup (and the US$3m that comes with it), he also achieved recognition at the Game Awards, being named Esports Player of the Year.
But that’s not the only recognition he’s received. ‘Swatting’ is a vile tactic some employ, calling the police on streamers. After his World Cup win, this happened to Bugha. Luckily for him, one of the police recognized him from that event and was able to calm the situation down.
Fact 3: the Fourth Biggest Sport in the World
The three biggest international sporting events are the Olympics, Football World Cup, and Formula 1 (the last of which is the only one held every year). Yet by some measures esports is almost as big as F1.
It’s estimated that 2019 saw the total audience of esports rise to 454m. In the same year, F1 (which has been going since 1950 and is amongst the biggest mainstream sports in the world) had a total global audience figure of 490m. Bearing in mind that esports has been largely under the radar of the mainstream (perhaps except the Fortnite World Cup) that’s an astonishing achievement. It’s not hard to see esports surpassing F1 within a few years. And to add a bit more context, the Super Bowl is estimated to have a total viewership of around 160m, with the US Open (held in the same venue as the Fortnite World Cup) coming in at 3m or so for the singles’ finals.
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Fact 4: Mischief as old as Videogames
Think of esports and the mind understandably drifts to the modern world of hyper-competitive gaming, maybe with pro teams and livestreaming. However, videogames have been highly competitive for a long time, going all the way back to the 1980s.
In the early 1980s an American called Todd Rogers was listed on the Twin Galaxies (an official supplier of records to Guinness World Records) leader board for the game Dragster, with a time of 5.51 seconds. This was impressive. So impressive the record stood for over three decades. And prompted quite a few questions.
Eric Koziel (a speedrunner) broke down the game’s code and worked out that the best possible time was 5.57 seconds. Activision, the developer, asserted the fastest time possible was 5.54 seconds. With this data and other records of Rogers being openly disputed, Twin Galaxies removed all his scores from their leader boards and banned him permanently, with Guinness World Records removing his records.
Fact 5: Formula Esports
Esports and regular sport might seem like very different animals, but that doesn’t need to be the case. Formula E is amongst the most innovative of the traditional sports, and from 2018-19 has operated the Ghost Racing competition.
This very cool extra side to the sport allows ordinary people to compete in real time against actual Formula E drivers (and other Ghost racers). The cars are even customizable. Players can also race in custom tournaments, watch old footage, clip it, and share it through social media. If you like esports and motorsport this is the perfect way to splice them together.
Fact 6: the Future’s Bright
The rise of esports looks set to continue, with 2020 forecast to be its biggest and best year to date. Viewers, fans, and revenue are all on the increase and there are predictions that by 2021 the global audience for esports could exceed 550m.
There are plenty of reasons for this, not least the increasing number of streaming platforms (Youtube, Twitch, Mixer) and the very tasty prize money available. Why so much money? Well, sponsors find huge spectator engagement with adverts, which makes it highly lucrative. More sponsors means more money. And more money means more competition, which means better quality entertainment. All of which makes the future for esports look very bright indeed.