The oldest professional sport teams can trace their start back to the mid-19th century, a period when casual past times such as baseball or football transitioned into more organized leagues.
Since this tipping point, pro sports has thrived around the world, and the business of sports has evolved into a multi-billion dollar ecosystem for teams, leagues, players, merchandisers, sponsors, broadcasters, and event spaces.
Today, this evolution still continues – and it is being driven by the emergence of eSports (electronic sports), an exciting frontier for fans and business alike.
Today’s chart breaks down the eSports boom, including data on the sector’s rapid growth, prize pools, and the most valuable eSports companies today.
Despite having a reputation in the media and in popular culture as being on the fringes, it is clear that gaming is now a truly mainstream phenomenon.
In fact, the global gaming industry has now eclipsed $135 billion in revenue worldwide – a figure that is twice as much as the film and music industries combined.
With hundreds of millions of avid fans around the world, demand to watch the most elite gamers has reached a fever pitch – and now, it’s not uncommon to see sold-out arenas, big name sponsorship deals, and massive prize pools in the name of eSports.
Defining the eSports Ecosystem
Like any professional league, eSports creates the foundation for an entire ecosystem of opportunities.
Players are central to the ecosystem, since they are the stars and they have their own personalities. One famous star is Kuro Takhasomi (KuroKy), who has brought in a whopping $4.2 million in prize money from Dota 2 tournaments so far. He has earned more than any other player in eSports.
Because the games played are mostly team-based, there is a crucial element of teamwork involved. eSports franchises are currently selling for millions of dollars. It’s worth noting that these franchises don’t just employ players – they also hire staff that can better ensure the success of players, such as coaches, trainers, and personal chefs.
Games and Developers
Some of the most important games in the eSports world right now include: Dota 2, Counter-Strike, League of Legends, Overwatch, Fortnite, and Call of Duty.
Leagues and tournaments can offer massive prize pools for players. The biggest single pool so far was $25.5 million, offered for a Dota 2 tournament in 2017 (“The International”). It’s the second-largest prize pool offered in any kind of sport, behind the U.S. Open (tennis).
Running eSports events is big money, and organizers of events can tap into sponsorship and fan revenue. Sometimes game publishers will organize the events, but third-party ones also exist in the ecosystem.
Sponsors like Coca-Cola, Intel, and Mercedes-Benz have shelled out millions of dollars to sponsor events and reach the massive audiences associated with eSports. In more recent news, SAP signed a deal to sponsor one of the biggest names, Team Liquid.
Broadcasters, both traditional and online (YouTube, Facebook Live, Twitch, etc.), are also in to get a part of the action. Recently, game developer Blizzard signed a broadcasting deal with Disney to broadcast Overwatch League playoffs on ESPN, ABC, and Disney XD.