E-Sports: The Rise of the Next Big Thing

When people talk about sports, most would not think of including video games as a category. In fact, I’m sure that many of you who read this will be thinking just that. Well, I am here to tell you that video gaming is poised to become the next big thing in mainstream media. The truth of the matter is that professional video gaming has been steadily on the rise, and it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

E-Sports as an industry is actually not as young as you might think it may be. While it may have only just started booming here in the States during the past five years, gaming has been mainstream over in South Korea for almost the past two decades. Being a professional gamer over in Korea is very much a viable career choice that is respected by everyone who lives there.

The two main video games leading the e-sports industry at the moment are Dota 2 (short for Defense of the Ancients 2) and League of Legends, owned by Valve and Riot Games respectively.  Both of these companies have different approaches in terms of how they established their infrastructure for e-sports.

Dota 2

The Dota 2 infrastructure for e-sports revolves around multiple major tournaments every year. Professional teams around the world play in their region in order to rack up enough circuit points to qualify for the annual world championship known as The International, where the prize pool is funded through crowd-sourcing. The most recent world championship, coined as The International 4 or just TI4, had a prize pool of over ten million dollars. As the biggest tournament the game has ever seen thus far, it allowed the game to be featured on ESPN.

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The players on these teams are not contracted by Valve, the company responsible for the majority of these tournaments, and do not receive any kind of compensation for their participation. Instead, players completely rely on going far into each tournament they play in to get their money. This may seem like an extremely unstable venture for many players, but there are more hidden avenues to make money under the surface. Players can stream themselves playing the game and make a living off of ad revenue. They can also get sponsors to support them in exchange for promoting their products.

League of Legends

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2013 League of Legends World Championship held in a sold-out Staples Center in LA

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Sangam Stadium, Home of the 2002 FIFA World Cup and the 2014 League of Legends World Championship Finals

Arguably the bigger of the two giants, League of Legends is the game that has innovated the e-sports industry into what it is in the US. Riot Games has done an incredible job thus far of promoting their game and insuring its stability. The way that League has its infrastructure set up vastly contrasts with what Dota 2 has for its own infrastructure. The first major difference is that League players are actually contracted by Riot Games and are given actual salaries for playing. The infrastructures of League in America and in Europe are very reminiscent of what you would expect to see from a traditional sport. Modeled after the likes of the NBA and the NFL, professional teams play in seasons to get the best seed for regional playoffs. Top seeds play lower seeds in a playoff elimination bracket. The top three teams from these playoffs each get a spot in the world championship. This year’s world championship, which is still currently in progress, is being held across multiple countries in Asia. The Finals for this year will be held in Seoul, Korea in the Sangam Stadium, the venue for the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

Personally, I am very excited to see that e-sports is growing so fast. It is only a matter of time before the industry catches the eyes of everyone!

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