This past August, The International 2017 tournament was watched by over 10 million people worldwide. With a prize pool of over 24 million dollars and a main event that lasted for 5 days, some people might wonder, what is everybody watching? DotA 2 is an eSport that has been growing quickly since its release in 2013, and currently stands as one of the most popular eSports today. As an industry, eSports has scene unprecedented growth over the last two years, especially in terms of prize pools and viewership. Game developer and distributor Valve holds the rights to two of the largest eSports, both DotA 2 and Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). The third big eSport is League of Legends (LoL), owned by Riot gaming, and the LoL scene is run in a franchised circuit.
One of the hallmarks of growth in eSports can be seen in the investment from established industries. In 2016, Turner Broadcasting Studios began showing CS:GO on live television under the brand of ELeague, and has since hosted four major tournaments for Counter Strike. The interest of television as a broadcasting platform is enticing to eSports fans as a way into the mainstream. Online streaming is a favorite among the community for viewing eSports, but TBS brings in advertisers on a bigger scale to promote growth on another level. ELeague has also forced the Counter Strike tournament circuit to up prize pool levels. Before Turner’s involvement in the scene, Valve-sponsored events, known as majors, featured prize pools of $250,000, as opposed to the now common $1 million. The growth of the counter strike scene is exciting because it features at least five major tournament organizers, leading to increasing dividends for players and teams participating.
CS:GO isn’t even the most viewed eSport, or the eSport with the largest prize pools. League of Legends in 2016 viewership numbers were incredible by any standards. The LoL season 5 world’s finals viewership exceeded the NBA finals viewership in the NBA’s record breaking year. The international appeal of League of Legends reaches into Korea and China, and is more available than American cable packages. Internet streaming websites like Twitch are ahead of the innovation curve here; advertisers are increasingly more invested in optimizing ads for streams than television. The huge viewership numbers rival conventional sports in many areas and would suggest continued growth in the industry.
So where are eSports headed? The fact that the industry can support two games so strikingly similar in nature and design (LoL and DoTA 2) could be an indicator or the potential profitability of these games. None of the current major eSports shows hints of dying out despite the competition, and the influx of wealth only seems to keep increasing. Gone are the days of eSports as a part time job, and the world where major companies and organizations like Samsung or the New York Yankees become heavily involved in the budding industry is here. The world of eSports stands out as a new age industry on the rise, and its only a matter of time before the business effects of these video games are felt by all of mainstream entertainment.