What Are Esports?

Mar 28, 2018

Video games have progressed dramatically since the first consoles made their way into homes in the 1970s.

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Video games have progressed dramatically since the first consoles made their way into homes in the 1970s. Seeing trailers for new video game releases makes it hard to believe that at-home gaming started with ‘Pong’ – two pixelated paddles and a ball. As gaming technology has progressed and internet speeds have improved, a new trend has blossomed: esports. You may not be familiar with the term ‘esports’, but you will be soon. The industry is estimated to be worth $1.5B  by 2020 (yes, that B stands for billion). Let’s take a closer look.

What Are Esports?

The simplest way to describe esports is professional, competitive gaming (and by gaming, I mean playing video games). With me so far? Esports aren’t limited to one particular genre of gaming; any game with a clear winner or loser can be played competitively. As esports have grown in popularity, professional leagues have begun to form, much like the NFL for football or NBA for basketball. In the US, Major League Gaming (MLG) is the largest esports league, but there are a myriad of smaller leagues and large-scale international leagues. Esports is one of the first major entertainment trends to develop in Asia rather than the west.

Game Types

OTT consulting, broadcast consulting, show development, content development, production services, live production, video production companies, live video production companies, video streaming, live streaming, OTT services, OTT providers, OTT companies, OTT operators, OTT, over the top television, production staffingThere are a number of video game genres, but the most common esports genres are first-person shooter formats or multiplayer online battle arena games (also known as MOBAs). With first-person shooter games, the goal is to kill the opposing team or, in some instances, compete in a “king of the hill” type scenario. MOBAs are more nuanced. They typically involve two teams playing as characters with unique abilities, strengths and weaknesses. The goal is to kill your opponent and destroy their base on the opposite side of the map.

Card games, strategy games, fighting games and sports games can all be played as esports as well. In fact, in order to capitalize on the growing popularity of esports, some professional sports leagues, like FIFA and the NHL, have begun sponsoring individual gamers or esports teams. The idea is that by getting gamers competing in sports titles – like EA Sports NHL 18 – players are exposed to hockey through video games, making it easier to convert them to long-term fans of the sport itself. Sneaky.


Believe it or not, there is BIG money in esports: for the players, for the leagues, and for the game manufacturers. Revenue comes from 3 places: the sale of content rights to broadcasters, direct payments from live streaming services (some live tournaments attract tens of millions of online viewers), and advertising revenue. Teams who compete professionally in esports leagues are often playing for large pools of money – some tournaments have been known to pay out as much as $24M. And in the US, some leagues have begun to pay gamers an annual salary, which is supplemented by any additional winnings their team brings in. One of the largest video game streaming platforms – Twitch – was acquired by Amazon for $970M only 3 years after it launched. Needless to say, there is a lot of money being thrown around in the esports world. Analysts estimate that esports will be a $1.5B industry by 2020.

Where to Watch

OTT consulting, broadcast consulting, show development, content development, production services, live production, video production companies, live video production companies, video streaming, live streaming, OTT services, OTT providers, OTT companies, OTT operators, OTT, over the top television, production staffingMuch like professional sports rights, different leagues are available on different platforms, so online viewing can vary. The two biggest platforms for esports are Amazon-owned Twitch and Google-owned YouTube. Other major broadcasters – like ESPN and the BBC – have also streamed esports events (ESPN even has an esports section on their website). Online viewership can often reach millions of fans. In 2014, the total audience for the League of Legends Championship drew 27M viewers. By comparison, that year’s NBA Finals drew 15.5M and the World Series drew 13.8M.

If they’re not watching online, fans also attend esports tournaments in person. The IEM World Championship event in Poland in 2017 drew 173,000 attendees over 2 days. To add perspective: the Rungrado 1st of May Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea is the largest stadium in the world with a capacity of 114,000. In the US, esports arenas are starting to pop up throughout the country, specifically in California, Las Vegas and, soon, Texas.

Why is it Important?

An article published in 2015 by ESPN’s Ben Casselman perfectly summarizes why espots have become so popular: “Gaming is what every traditional sports league is desperate to become: young, global, digital and increasingly diverse.”

Let’s break this down:

Many people are skeptical about whether or not esports is an actual sport, which is an often cited debate. On the flip side, some fans feel esports should be an Olympic event. It’s a polarizing subject and I can see a case being made either way. But regardless of where you stand on the ‘classification’ issue, there’s no denying that esports have been exploding in recent years, and it doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon.

No Comments
  • Andrew Ryback Reply
    2018-03-07 21:55:41

    We're glad you found this to be useful, Margaux. Let us know if there's anything we can help with.

  • Margaux Ford Reply
    2018-03-07 05:57:06

    I appreciate the tips on hiring a production staffing company to have more time to focus on the creative aspects of the project. Hiring a production crew is a tedious task, and can take up much of your time. We're currently working on a huge production, and I'll share this article with my boss so he'll consider on delegating the recruitment to a staffing company. I like that you mentioned that staffing company can ensure to have the right team onboard for the project. Thanks!

  • Robert McWilliams Reply
    2017-10-31 19:05:18

    Todd: I have an ad agency in addition to our production company. We put one of our clients on OTT two months ago up in Nevada. Seems to be working! Thanks again for the work earlier this month. Rob

  • Nicole Rohde Reply
    2017-05-27 22:28:45

    Hey Andrew, Any word as to whether or not the Jokers will be back for Comic Con this year? Please let me know. Thanks!!!

  • Aaron Estabrook Reply
    2017-02-23 16:26:57

    I'll be tuning in for sure!

  • David Patton Reply
    2015-01-16 13:16:02

    Interesting blog post Andrew. For those who are nearly ready to cut the cord, but still want access to key channels such as ESPN, I'd recommend checking out Dish Network's new service, Sling TV. It provides access to a handful of channels for $20/month. https://gigaom.com/2015/01/15/sling-tv-details-price-devices-networks-resolution-bandwidth/

  • Andrew Ryback Reply
    2015-01-13 14:44:19

    Go for it! I'll admit that I was a little apprehensive about pulling the plug at first, but honestly, the transition away from DirecTV has been seamless. The only missing link is live sports, but there are a few work arounds depending on what sports you watch. Good luck!

  • Gregory Hart Reply
    2015-01-13 06:35:00

    While I am part of the 55 year old demographic that still has TV boxes and does TV viewing, I do my viewing using DVRs and networked PCs playing video files from an in-home server. I too have noticed that I view a handful of shows on a regular basis and have found various other sources for these shows. And now it has gotten to the point to where I am seriously considering ending my very long relationship with DirecTV and going streaming. Working in the TV industry also helped to open eyes to this as well. This transition from "old" TV is coming and the networks (Les Moonves, I am looking at you!) had better plan for it.

  • K. Lona Lymen Reply
    2014-01-31 17:54:25

    You are spot-on that voters don't believe that Obama can accomplish any of his plans. I vote in every election, but I am disgusted with all the arguing and last minute actions that band-aid a problem for a few months, and then break out into new arguments. The comparison to the Superbowl was interesting because, like politics it is a great American sport. But, instead of Peyton Manning giving a State-of-the Union, the President's address should get better commercials!

  • Gary Reply
    2013-08-08 09:44:39

    You've left out a HUGE part of this story by not mentioning Howard Stern's effect on the Sharknado buzz! #siris-ly

  • Marybeth Harrison Reply
    2013-08-07 14:46:29

    I can almost hear the theme song from Jaws as I read your post!