Narrowing The Gap: Traditional Sports And Esports

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Narrowing The Gap: Traditional Sports And Esports

Thinking about esports as a term for organized competitions was almost unheard of 20 years ago, even in video game crazed countries like South Korea. Back in 1998, StarCraft was published, while other franchises that had a strong competitive side, like Quake, were still mainly played during LAN parties. Two more years would need to pass for Counter-Strike 1.6 to become a global phenomena. During those years, the majority of people had to guess what the term “electronic sports” actually meant.

Today, the position of esports is undisputed as one of the fastest growing domains of entertainment. A tailor-made activity for the Connected Generations, electronic sports will certainly continue to expand. However, the thing that is especially interesting about that growth process is its relation to traditional sports entertainment. Again, a decade ago, it would have been impossible to compare the two. Now, it appears that the gap between the two is rapidly shrinking.


The Esports Wave

While mainstream media seemingly fall in and out of love with esports, the overall gaming community are not that prone to opinion swings. In this regard, esports are gaining traction and gaining it fast.

The overall numbers when it comes to profits do not reveal very much. In 2018, the esports market in the US will generate a revenue of about $345 million. The global revenue of esports is expected to be more than $900 million. The upward swing towards esports is apparent and while these are not small amounts, Major League Baseball generates well over $10 billion annually. The National Football League is an even stronger performer and the Super Bowl is always one of the most watched sports broadcasts on the planet.

But, it is important to take into consideration the origin stories of these sports as well. Both the NFL and MLB have traditions reaching back more than two centuries. The same is true for virtually any established traditional sports organization in the world. Yet, esports are showing their true color when it comes to user acquisition, especially among the younger generations.


Getting Viewers Faster Than Anyone Else

Major League Baseball is a unified competitive structure in the US. Esports are not, even inside of single game categories. Recently, Blizzard’s Overwatch is attempting to do the same, but the results won't be clear until a later date. But, when it comes to attracting new viewers and spectators, the growth of esports as a whole is outpacing all traditional sports.

The 2017 LoL World Championship had 106 million viewers. That outnumbered the 2018 Kentucky Derby seven times over (15 million viewers) and Wimbledon by a factor of almost 11 (9.4 million viewers). According to a university-organized poll published in the Washington Post, almost 60 percent of individuals in the US aged between 14 to 21 watched some form of esports. The same poll showed that about 16 percent of adults did the same. But, another statistic could get traditional sports franchise owners worried - 40 percent of young Americans state they are fans of the NFL. At the same time, 38 percent say they are fans of esports.


Money and Eyeballs

More Eyeballs= Better Quality, Better Quality=More Eyeballs. The rise in spectators or eyeballs on esports events means more sponsorships. The increase in sponsors raises the quality of the events, production and competitors. This increase in quality then leads to more eyeballs.

No one can say that esports will overcome traditional sports anytime soon in any major metric, but they are further along than anyone could have guessed a decade ago. There is no reason to believe that this growth and development will suddenly stop in the coming years.


Image Via: Esports Marketing Blog

Statistics Source: Washington Post