Who knew that one day we would have a multi million – even multi billion! – dollar industry in the world of video games, now referred to as e-sports (electronic sports). Various studies suggest that, since around 1998, the e-sports industry has been growing at about 43% every year – from the point of view of investors, that is an insane return if your investment grows at the growth rate of the market! Research from Findbettingsites has shown that video games are rising in all walks of life, with females making up 41% of all gamers in the US as of 2020, versus 38% in 2006. Some may still be in disbelief at the true size of the e-sports industry, but video games are now played on the big screen and watched with huge spectatorship.

The first ever esports tournament

The first ever video game tournament to ever occur was actually in 1972 at the American university of Stanford University, where students took part in playing the game Space Invaders. Interestingly, even back then, the viewership (physical attendees) reached a number of around 10’000. Of course, this event received some crazy news coverage since Space Invaders was one of the “OG” games which, back in the 1970s, was essentially a household name. Now you have more games than you could ever try and remember or write down, but back when video games were just being introduced in the mainstream, you only really had a handful of games which were considered ‘household name’ status.

The 1980s and 1990s

These years saw a large growth of game developers and gamers, as the industry grew and both developers and consumers grew side by side. At this point, this was no longer some new technology that came out, but games with which kids were able to grow up beside, and so they were brought into the mainstream.

Of course, in the 1990s, we saw the introduction of the internet; and the worldwide web enabled individuals to communicate and share information at lightning fast speeds as opposed to in the past. The internet connected games and games across the world, which also gave rise to some of the big companies, such as Nintendo, which are household names today. A staple gaming tournament of the 1990s was the 1997 Red Annihilation tournament, where players played the “Quake game”. The tournament drew in some funding, sponsorships and around 2000 participants. The Red Annihilation tournament of 1997 is widely regarded as the world’s first proper e-sports tournament, which was not only enjoyed by students or gamers, but it also involved big companies through sponsorships and of course even the online attention from the internet. Either way, since then, this industry has been growing at an annual rate of 43%… insane!

E-sports in today’s world

In 2017, the total prize money won in the e-sports industry was over $110 million, from across nearly 4000 tournaments from around the world. The biggest prize pools records are being beat year by year at huge gaming tournaments wherein players play the likes of Dota 2, League of Legends, CS:GO and other games. There is no reason why this growth should stop, as for a good few years now, not only have e-sports tournaments been played in filled arenas, had pre- and post-match interviews and commentator discussions, but they can also be seen on mainstream TV channels all around the world.

Overall, e-sports and video gaming is now competing with major league sports, European football and basketball industries for viewership, as young fans are more likely today to be fans of e-sports, and avid gamers themselves, than they were in the past. And with more people playing video games, as opposed to solely sports, there are more people likely to watch e-sports, as opposed to solely “traditional” sports.