It’s only in the past few years that professional gaming has become a viable career option. Prize money for winning tournaments is on the rise and major brands want sponsor teams or competitions to reach a millennial audience.
To give a sense of the scale of the industry, here’s some stats. The International 2018, the biggest tournament for the game “Dota 2,” was held in August and had a total prize pool of $25.5 million. The final had nearly 15 million people watching across various streaming sites, including Amazon-owned Twitch. If you took out the number of Chinese viewers that number would have fallen to 1.2 million, showing the scale of the market in the world’s second-largest economy.
In fact, esports is a truly international phenomenon. Newzoo expects 53 percent of the esports audience to be in the Asia Pacific region in 2018 and 18 percent to be in Europe. In comparison, North America will account for around 14 percent.
Asia has a rich gaming history, being home to many well-known gaming companies such as Sony and Nintendo. The growth in viewership has been driven by the higher quality broadcast being put on. If you were to watch an esports tournament online you’d see many of the aspects that appear on traditional sports broadcasts — commentary, analysis and stats.
“What we are seeing now over time, is we are seeing a professional element develop, we are seeing a strong critical mass of amateur competition develop, and we are continuing to see the gamers,” Garry Cook, executive chairman at U.K.-based Gfinity, told CNBC’s “Beyond the Valley.”
“So, therefore, the event is only the same as traditional sports — the very best, performing in an environment that allows us to watch. The Romans were doing that.”
Gfinity is a U.K.-based company that has an arena in London where it helps put on tournaments and create content.