Electronic sports are big business already, and now they are making their way into the mainstream consciousness. Once limited to small tournaments organized by the competitors themselves, eSports are now sponsored by large companies putting up significant amounts of prize money to draw the world’s best players.
By one estimate eSports prize money now totals $25 million and major tournament play streamed online is watched by more people than most major sporting events. The rise of entities like Major League Gaming and the reach of sites like Twitch.tv have been crucial in the sports growth. Twitch was recently linked to a $1 billion deal to be bought by YouTube (which is owned by Google) based largely on the promise of competitive gaming streaming.
As the eSports continues to grow it would not be out of the question to see them covered alongside football and other sports on major networks. Already online bookmakers exist to take bets on eSports, but they are small and limited. At the current rate of growth, however, it won’t be long before larger sites like www.gambling.com include sections supplying tips and odds for punters looking to gamble on their favorite gamers.
Perhaps most indicative of the booming relevance of competitive gaming is the news that an American university is offering scholarships to gamers through their athletic department. Other schools field competitive gaming teams, but Robert Morris University is among the first to offer major scholarships to skilled League of Legends players. Players that attend RMU will be eligible for up to a 50% scholarship while competing as an official part of the school’s athletic program against over 100 other institutes of higher learning.
What was once a niche hobby, and one often derided in mainstream and popular culture has established itself as a legitimate business with legitimately talented performers. With giant companies like Intel and Coca-Cola finally seeing the value in such an industry, that legitimacy is making strong in-roads to the collective conscience. In the past gamers were derided for wasting their time with video games, but now they can call it practice. Who wouldn’t want to turn their favorite hobby into a career?
With the growth of eSports all but assured and the increased cultural cache that comes along with it, fans of competitive gaming are looking at a bright future.