UnderstandING the Esports rEvolution
As I have entered my eighth decade of life, there are many great technological advances that I have seen born in my lifetime, including television, manned missions to the moon, video games, the personal computer, the internet, mobile phones and personal electronic devices, smart cities, and digital gaming. People tracked a game’s progress by hanging placards on the scoreboard at Yankee stadium when I was a child, now it is all digital, even showing the player and game trivia diehard fans like me love. It is no surprise then that technology has given birth to Esports; imagine video games played competitively by organized teams.
This $3.5 billion industry is rapidly growing and becoming an amazing force in competitive sports. It could one day be bigger than my beloved baseball.
My sports heroes were Joe Dimaggio (1936-1951), Yogi Berra (1946-1953), Whitey Ford (1950, 1953-1967), Elston Howard (1955-1967) and Mickey Mantle (1951-1968) to name a few. I remember the thrill when Reggie Jackson tied Babe Ruth’s World Series record with three home runs in 1977. I know how to find player rankings based on RBIs, batting average, etc. I love all the sights, sounds, smells, heroes, and excitement of Yankees baseball.
My sport has a team roster of 26 players and up to 40 players under contract each season. The players have big money, multi-year contracts (in most cases), and loyal fans. I sit in an open-air stadium while 9-players take the field.
Esports offers “team-oriented multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBAs)” as well as single player, multi-player, and virtual stadiums and arenas. The players have “player IDs” that have fan followings perhaps greater than my baseball heroes. The esports culture is different than anything I grew up with, but it is no less exciting for its fans.
I am trying to get my head around esports because it is an amazing cultural phenomenon, one that can involve families. Just like Little League, youth soccer, and high school and college sports, parents and other family members are invested in the success of their “players.” They buy equipment, monitor online activity, participate in team meetings, travel with their player to tournaments, and support them during success and failure. The best of these players and their teams can become famous and earn big money and fame for their effort.
Who are the top-rated esports players? It’s complicated in the same way as any sport that has a large fan base and lots of money. It depends on the game. So, I went to esportsearnings.com to find out who the best players are and found that player ID “N0tall” earned more than $7.1 million playing Dota 2.
In fact, there are 110 Esports players who have earned at least seven figures and hundreds more that have earned six-figures playing Dota 2, several variations of Call of Duty, Fortnite, Starcraft, Warcraft, Counter Strike, Mortal Kombat, etc. The lowest paid player, number 500 in the world of esports, has earned more than $333,000 playing Dota 2. Two tournaments in 2021 awarded over $2 million in prize money each to teams and individual players. This is serious money supported by big name business and a growing base of devoted fans.
In my view, serious money means there is a need for standards to protect the integrity of the sport. What lessons have been learned and how are they documented? How do we translate lessons learned into best practices? How can best practices evolve into measurable standards that help ensure the long-term viability and integrity of esports?
I may not understand esports the way I understand baseball, but I am excited by its prospects. In our quest to understand esports and its associated culture and fan base, IIFX is thinking about its future. We look forward to working with the thought leaders, practitioners, sponsors, stakeholders, experts, academics, and the fans to help build esports and enhance the fan experience for all.