Tens of millions of people have tuned in around the world to watch DOTA 2, League of Legends and Counter Strike: Global Offensive world finals over the past few months. Athlete status has been awarded to the participants (when applying for a US visa) and millions of dollars awarded to the five strong teams that win the now highly coveted and and heavily contested competitions. But will they ever rival the more traditional sports such as football, which can pull in audiences numbering over a billion?
Let’s look at the sheer numbers that the traditional sports can pull in. The top flight of English football, the Premier League, reaches 643 million households. It is broadcast in over 200 countries around the world, not something any eSport can boast and most certainly much better received than ESPN2’s attempt recently with Heroes of the Storm.
But then the video games can pull a much larger percentage of their entire audience. The ESL One Katowice, the most recent CS:GO tournament attracted “8,785,740 unique visitors” to the various streams and other means of viewing the game. Based on the CS:GO sales figures of around 16 million, over 50% of the number who partake in the video game watching the matches is pretty impressive. That’s been cited as a 150% growth on previous tournaments. Given how quickly the game is growing and how fast the audience is growing, it might not be long before the audience exceeds even the ownership of the game itself. Although that’s hard to compare to more traditional sports, it’s still a great achievement in its own right.
eSports are much younger as entertainment than regular sports, yet benefit from the established entertainment infrastructure such as television and newspapers. They also win out of more tech savvy audiences with live streams online, vlogs, social media and more to spread their appeal at a much faster rate than the traditional sports were able to when they developed.
Money, spent by the teams, leagues, national and international organisers and their sponsors is the best way of pulling in bigger audiences to the ever growing sports – although eSports right now is orders of magnitude smaller in terms of fiscal power. This cash flow is able to better advertise, better inform and ultimately provide better returns to those that show the events, so the cycle of exposure continues to bring in more fans and more fans mean more money, etc. etc.
In conclusion eSports has a long way to go as compared to traditional sports in terms of both size, money and global involvement – and it’s unlikely any eSport will have a following of a billion any time soon – but with the rate they’re growing and the level of participation in the sport it may at least be accepted as much as traditional sport.