eSports Beginners Guide: Introduction to eSports

What Is eSports?

Not quite sure what eSports is? Whether it’s a medium for entertainment, a hobby in one’s freetime, or a potential source of revenue from bets, it’s clear that eSports is something everyone should be on the lookout for, especially as its popularity increases. As you can see below, eSports tournaments are able to not only match, but outshine other traditional sporting events. eSports professional gamers can make millions per year. The old adage that video games will ruin your life is officially dead. Don’t believe us? Read this article – Highest Paid eSports Players in the World and you’ll start to understand.

One poll, taken last year by Washington Post-University of Massachusetts Lowell found that 58 percent of 14-to- 21-year-olds said they watched people playing competitive video games, with a similar percentage reporting that they played such games themselves.

Okay, But What Is It?

Before understanding the radical growth of eSports, let’s first establish the basics. eSports is a video game sport that encompasses a wide range and variety of video games, fans, and viewers. It is played worldwide, typically by professional gamers and in tournaments that have boasted record viewerships of over 100 million fans, like the 2017 World Championship for League of Legends, according to analyst website eSports Charts.

And eSports is played on many more games than League of Legends (frequently referred to as LoL). Although LoL is one of the most popular PC video games for eSports both in the United States and internationally, you may also recognize more pop culturally significant titles like Fortnite, Super Smash Bros, or Call of Duty.

How Does The Sport Work?

Types of Games
Generally, the types of games played by professional players or teams can be strategy games, which include multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games, like LoL, and real-time strategy (RTS) games. Other extremely popular genres include first-person shooter (FPS) games, or fighting games. Although not considered strategy games, these types of games still involve equal amounts of skill, teamwork, and quick reflexes.

Real-time strategy games are called so because they break from the format of traditional turn-based games. Players must control units to react to events as the game progresses, and these games often have resources and building mechanics to further challenge players. Popular examples of RTS games in eSports include StarCraft II or Warcraft III.

MOBA is by far, the most popular genre in terms of viewership and prize money. MOBA games, which originally spawned as a sub-genre of RTS games, are team strategy games where teams work together against an opposing team to take out their base while defending their own. In 2018, the top prize money for the LoL World Championship was nearly $6.5 million dollars. Another popular MOBA game, Dota 2, had a total prize pool of over $25 million dollars in the 2018 championship and over 52 million total viewers.

One of the most universally recognized eSports genres, first-person shooter games include classic franchises like Call of Duty, Rainbow Six, and Counter-Strike, as well as the more recently popular battle royale genre with titles like Fortnite and PlayerUnknown: Battlegrounds. These games center around weapon-based combat through the eyes of the main character, and usually involve teams competing against each other.

Lastly, fighting games, which include Mortal Kombat and Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros, are games which usually focus on individual players’ skills and tactics in round-based matches.

How The Games Are Played
Watching an eSports tournament, you’ll see the same type of setup we’ve all become familiar with after watching traditional sports. Commentators provide information on the teams, players, and the leagues and tournaments, while a live audience usually watches as the games unfold. Like traditional sporting games, the matches and tournaments are broadcast live to the hundreds or millions of fans that watch live through live streaming platforms like YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook.

One of the only things slowing the growth of eSports (which, by the way, is still growing at an insane rate- the audience has expanded by just over 50% since 2016 to now include 557 million total casual viewers and enthusiasts) is the lack of a national or international professional league, like with the NFL or the Olympics.

Due to this lack of an official professional league for eSports, a unique structured system has established itself in the industry. Players organize themselves by specific games, and the games are run and regulated by tournaments or leagues that host the large tournaments and set up the seasons for the sport.

Similar to how American football was organized before the creation of the NFL, teams are organized into a variety of different regions and leagues based on geographic locations. Many leagues focus on specific countries or continents.

The key thing to note is that teams and players are almost always separated by specific games, so they are whittled down throughout seasons through series matches that put teams and players against each other for multiple games in a row. Often, in FPS games, specific teams are extremely skilled or prepared for certain maps over others, so multiple rounds are needed before elimination.

Live Gameplay
With the use of live streaming platforms, like the incredibly popular Twitch streaming site, professional gamers or leagues are able to reach endless amounts of fans in real time. For individual players, this means one on one and more personal interactions with fans. And for large tournament streams, this means real-time engagement with millions of fans and a greater impact on ads that millions of viewers will watch through as they attempt to see every moment of the matches.

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According to Twitch analytic site TwitchTracker, the nearly 600,000 average viewers on the streaming site in 2016 is expected to have grown to 1.28 million by the end of this year. Looking at the graph below, the dramatic growth of live streaming services is shown to be clear.

Where Does The Money Come From?

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As you can see above, there’s a lot of focus on and attention to viewership and revenue in the eSports system. Large game developers, major brand names, and investors with millions of dollars placed on the future of the market are all involved in the hundreds of millions of dollars that eSports generate.

It’s no surprise then that the growing industry of eSports is capable of large amounts of revenue. According to one analysis by Newzoo, an industry analyst, eSports has seen a more than 30% average annual revenue increase, with most of this generated from brand contributions. And, according to that same analysis, eSports is predicted to generate well over $345 million dollars in revenue in North America and over half a billion dollars overseas.

Clearly industry has seen a large increase in revenue in recent years as more and more people are realizing the potential profit involved with the rapidly growing industry. Newzoo also predicted that by 2021, eSports will be generating over $1.6 billion in total revenue, with $1.3 billion coming from these brand investments.

eSports Betting

In 2018, the well respected gambling industry research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming predicted that by 2020, the global eSports betting market would be generating $13 billion dollars. And this report came before the legalization of sports betting in the United States in 2019. Across Europe and Asia, eSports betting markets have been active and regulated for some time now.

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A 2019 article by Inside World football found that “at least 40% of spectators have not played in the video games they watch,” and that “the demographic is 62% male and 38% female, with more than half aged between 21 and 35 years old.” These statistics reveal the reality that Esports is becoming a spectator sport, with potential revenue to be made from the large amounts of people that enjoy watching the sport for entertainment.

The previously referenced article also revealed that, in 2016, over $5.5 billion was wagered on major eSports titles. There are already connections being made in the United States with established gambling organizations. For example, in 2018 gaming provider Paddy Power Betfair acquired the daily fantasy site FanDuel, with FanDuel CEO telling reporters, “eSports is definitely an area of focus for us. If you look at Vegas, there are lots of people who bet on eSports. To use a Wayne Gretzky analogy, ‘That’s where the puck is going.’”

by Brendan Dewley
PUBLISHED May 26, 2019

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Newzoo: More than one billion women are active gamers

Firm’s latest analysis shows 46% of all video game enthusiasts are female

Newzoo has released new research that shows women make up almost half of all gamers, as well as offering some insight into how they engage with the medium.

The study broke down gamers of all types into eight distinct personalities based on their preferences and how much time they dedicate to gaming. This was developed by researching consumer habits from 30 markets around the world.

46% of the people spread across the eight gamer types were found to be female, amounting to more than one billion.

The most common type of female gamer is what Newzoo refers to as the ‘time filler’ — people who play games to pass the time, most likely on mobile. 36% of all women in the study came under this category, compared to 19% of men. In fact, women account for almost two thirds of all ‘time fillers.’

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17% of women were considered ‘cloud gamers’, making this the second biggest category for the gender. According to Newzoo, ‘cloud gamers’ prefer high-quality games — especially if free-to-play or heavily discounted — and only spend on hardware when necessary. This is the group most likely to benefit from the likes of Google Stadia and Microsoft’s Project xCloud.

14% were classed as ‘popcorn gamers’, who enjoy playing games but prefer watching games content via Twitch, YouTube et al. Women made up 46% of all ‘popcorn gamers’, making it the most evenly balanced group in terms of genres. However, men aged 21 to 35 were most likely to fall into this category, accounting for 22% of ‘popcorn gamers.’

More than a fifth of all males were ‘cloud gamers’, making this their top category, followed by ‘time filler.’ Third was ‘ultimate gamer’ — those that love both playing and owning games, and dedicate the most time to it. 15% of men were classed as ‘ultimate gamers’ — just under two thirds of this group — versus 9% of women.

Women who were ‘ultimate gamers’ were most likely to be aged 26 to 30, whereas ‘time fillers’ were most likely to be 51 to 65 and ‘conventional gamers’ — those who prefer playing alone, and don’t watch much games content — were most likely to be aged 36 to 40.

by James Batchelor
PUBLISHED May 10, 2019

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Esports: Changing the definition of athletes in college and beyond

Esports phenomenon changing gaming stereotypes

There’s a new sport gaining popularity, and it doesn’t involve a field, a court or even a ball.

In this sport, you can catch gamers banging away at their keyboards, competing against other players in a virtual sphere.

This is the new world of esports, or electronic sports, and it is a growing phenomenon that’s attracting a new kind of athlete.

“I always say games are easy to pick-up on, difficult to master,” said Christian Anton, a third year student at the University of Denver and a member of the DU Esports Club team.

The world of esports just crowned its first world champion team, the London Spitfire, and a growing number of universities are even offering scholarships to competitive video gamers.

“It’s really becoming a mainstream activity, especially among millennials and those younger than me, like Gen Z,” Anton said.

The athletes

Anton is a computer science major at DU, with a triple minor in mathematics, history and public policy. A smart guy who argues his fellow keyboard warriors are, without question, athletes.

“The definition of what is a sport and what isn’t is rather fluid,” Anton said. “Some people say stuff like car racing is a sport, while others say, ‘All they do is turn left for about three hours.’ What you can’t argue with is it’s a task that you can improve with over time and with practice.”

At DU and Colorado State University in Fort Collins, there are now both casual and competitive esports clubs.

“It really should be considered a sport,” said Kyle Tong, a founding member of the casual esports club at CSU.

The clubs even have team captains, like Reave Hosman, for different games and skill levels.

“With every incoming freshman or first year class, we’ve grown,” Hosman said. “We’ve doubled, we’ve tripled. It really is incredible.”

Gaming is also bucking the stereotype that it’s a loner activity.

“There is a lot of camaraderie among fellow gamers,” Tong said. “And they socialize together. They’ll play a game together and they’ll go talk and say, ‘Oh, you’re this person, you’re that person. It’s nice to get to know you in person. Oh, it’s great to meet you.'”

Big business

Esports is certainly big business, inspiring new gaming centers like a huge facility in the Denver suburb of Lakewood.

“It’s big enough to be called an arena,” said James Love, director of communications for N3rd Street Gamers. “We have one in Philadelphia and one in Denver. In a nut shell, esports is competitive video gaming. I like to call it the biggest industry that nobody has heard of because it has flown under the radar for so many years.”

But those days are perhaps over. And Love said these controller commandos exhibit uncanny reflexes and more.

“There is an extraordinary amount of hand-eye coordination,” Love said. “It also takes a lot of focus. It takes breathing. So, a lot of the training that goes into traditional sports translates to the training that esports athletes go through.”

Let’s get physical

At one of Denver’s premiere one-on-one physical training facilities, The Body Shaping Company, trainer Briana Phillips appreciates the intensity of gaming.

“There’s definitely some skill involved within esports,” Phillips said.

But, she said the dedication, focus and skills of traditional athletes versus gamers are night and day.

“On a physical level, having to perform, whatever sport it is — you can’t really create that sitting down watching a screen,” Phillips said. “It’s just a different level of physical activity, dedication and passion.”

Equestrienne Natalie Anderson spends several hours a week in the gym.

“This is what helps me continue to compete at the level that I enjoy doing,” Anderson said.

She argues the stakes are simply higher for traditional athletes compared to gamers.

“I can certainly appreciate the skill it takes to master anything,” Anderson said. “But, I don’t think they’re necessarily comparable in that you’re not putting your body on the line in esports. There’s just a physical component of, if I come in and I’m not focused, I could have a serious accident or get hurt.”

While there are certainly a myriad of opinions, esports is certainly a game changer. And, it’s dispelling stereotypes about playing video games.

Dispelling the stereotypes

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“The idea that it’s a 300-pound guy in his mother’s basement or something like that? Totally wrong,” said University of Denver computer science professor and department chair Scott Leutenegger.

He said the intellectual abilities of esports athletes are unmatched and undeniable.

“Beyond fast reflexes, they work with a team, they communicate, they think ahead,” he said. “That’s called telescopic probing — if I do this and this and this. Just like chess. Thinking in multiple stages of what you are going to do, but unlike chess, you need to do it as a team. So, in many ways, it’s much more complex than chess.”

Leutenegger said gaming builds a sense of community and esports clubs can help build a university’s reputation.

“I do think more and more universities will be providing scholarships to esports athletes. Absolutely,” Leutenegger said.

Are the players nerds of jocks? He said probably both.

He also pointed out that there are thousands of job opportunities in esports game development and programming.

“These students are actually getting into a career field that is going to be rewarding to them in many ways,” Leutenegger said. “It is going to be lucrative to them.”

Women in esports

For professionals like Cait Culpepper, esports is a culture and career field that’s changing all the time.

“It’s exciting,” she said.

She said her handle name is ‘TinyCait.’

Culpepper is breaking barriers. First, as a woman in esports.

“I think there’s definitely room in this esports sphere,” she said. “We just need to make room for ourselves.”

And second, beyond competing, she’s making a name for herself as an esports event organizer.

“My dad always asked me how I was going to make money doing this,” Culpepper said. “I spent 10 years in the fashion industry in Los Angeles. Eventually, I was like – I just need to take a risk and try to get into this industry and it has worked out so far. I’m an event manager planning big, amateur, open tournaments.”

Big money

Those kinds of tournaments can pay out huge purses, similar to golf.

Love said the prize pools range from $500 to $10,000, and it’s only growing. The higher you place, the more you earn.

“Just like every sport, you have the elites,” Leutenegger said. “And you can make a lot of money.”

Beyond that, Anton said you can also pick up sponsors and some leagues are discussing annual salaries.

“They’re trying to make salaried employees where their primary income is from their sports team, like the NFL or NBA,” Anton said.

Corporations are certainly starting to take the surge in popularity seriously. In a recent tournament that aired nationwide, Coca Cola, Toyota and State Farm all paid for advertising time.

Eliminating socioeconomic barriers

The doors at N3rd Street Gamers are also wide open to the casual gamer. It’s just $10 to play for four hours.

“There’s a low barrier of entry,” said Love. “And there’s a huge demographic of gamers here. We want to provide you a safe place to game with the best equipment possible.”

Whether you consider them athletes or not, esports are certainly becoming more mainstream and popular by the minute.

“It’s not a sport in the traditional sense. We’re not physically exerting ourselves, that’s pretty obvious,” Hosman said. “But, I would say that these games, with the amount of focus and the amount of hand-eye coordination and the amount of effort that we put in, are as — if not more — mentally draining than any other sport out there that people play.”

Tong said they have the competitive spirit — their fun just happens to take place on a computer.

“What’s so wrong with that?” he said.

Anton said esports is also a great way to make new friends.

“Everybody on the team has a different role they can fill, or several different roles,” he said. “Just like you have your quarterback, your linemen and your wide receivers in football. In a game such as Overwatch, you have your team.”

Those teams include several different roles, like healers, attackers, attacks and more. The team has a goal they work toward together.

“It’s not a bunch of couch potatoes,” Leutenegger said. “It’s a bunch of active people that also do esports.”

by Russell Haythorn
PUBLISHED May 1, 2019

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