eSports: The Future Of The Video Gaming Industry?
Playing video games is now a competitive sport. Over the last decade, thanks to faster Internet, professional players, teams, and leagues have emerged, along with massive audiences, prizes, and revenues; similar to other league sports.
Comparatively speaking, estimated revenues in 2017 of $748 million (approximately £560m) is still small, but this industry is growing fast, with predictions that it will hit $1.9 billion in 2018, according to SuperData Research.
eSports: A Passionate And Growing Global Audience
It is estimated that the global eSports audience is over 226 million, although that figure is hard to track, given recent surges in popularity. eSports originated in South Korea, with the West catching up a few years later, achieving a quasi-mainstream following a few years ago.
There are multiple ways to watch games, either live or a recording. The most popular are, of course, online through Livestream video platforms, such as Twitch, Hitbox.Tv, Azubu, MLG.tv, alongside YouTube and ESPN3.
In response to growing popularity, physical venues have also been used for tournaments, including the Royal Opera House in London, where the 2015 Call of Duty European Regional Championship was held. Riot Games organises the League of Legends World Championship, which in 2013 was held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, with all 15,000 tickets selling out within an hour.
Big Money at Stake
eSports organisers are increasingly finding this merging of offline and online to be a winner when attracting huge crowds, with some championship matches receiving over 32 million viewers. The biggest prize, so far, is $11 million.
There are a range of game genres that draw in the crowds, from first-person shooters to real-time strategy, fighting and multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA). Team games are proving the most popular. Games developers are also adapting to demand from the eSports industry, with more sophisticated spectator modes. Viewers can now get as much as, if not more, information than players.
Some of the most popular titles include Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Call of Duty, League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Super Smash Bros. Melee, and StarCraft II, with new games receiving interest and investment from NBA champions and media brands.
Despite the fact that some major league commentators don’t consider eSports a “sport”, there are already multiple ways to turn pro. Some forward-thinking American universities already categorise eSports players at the Varsity level, and Canada and other countries issue visas for “internationally recognised” eSports athletes. eSports is a serious business for players. This includes training for over eight hours a day, joining a team, getting paid a salary and being part of an association, with professional organisations overseeing the sport in South Korea, UK, and internationally: the World eSports Association (WESA), International e-Sports Federation (IeSF) and International eGames Committee (IEGC).
Taking eSports Bets Seriously
Over the last ten years, eSports have slowly emerged as another way to gamble on competitive matches, tournaments, and championships. Even mainstream bookies are getting in on the game.
Multiple platforms now exist to facilitate eSports gambling, with dozens of companies offering solutions for games publishers. For eSports to gain the wider public’s trust, these transactions need to be secure, prevent fraud and encourage safe gambling practices, no different from other sports. Although these games take place in a virtual world, the money they generate has real-world impacts. Responsible games publishers need to ensure their audiences are playing the odds through secure platforms.
Introducing two-step authentication is one way we are making eSports gambling more secure. Our solution also brings together the payment processor and acquiring bank, making it easier and more cost effective for games publishers. In turn, this makes payouts faster, thereby giving spectators more bang for their buck. If eSports is going to become more mainstream, games publishers, especially in Europe, need to ensure spectators can place bets with as much confidence as they would in any other sport.
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