Esports: Just an Entertainment or The Sport of The Future?


The global esports audience already exceeds 500 million people, which is quite comparable to the other sports audience. Every year, many tournaments with multi-million dollar prize pools are held in the world, followed by hundreds of millions of online viewers, and every major sports resource has long been leading an e-sports section.

Cybersport is a competition in a virtual space, where the game is the interaction of control objects, providing equal conditions for person-to-person or team-to-team competition. In simple words, this is really a competition in video or computer games, only in a serious way. Among the most popular esports disciplines are 3D shooters that simulate a battle between teams of players using modern or fantastic weapons, sports simulators (FIFA games series); real-time strategies (StarCraft) and team role-playing games with elements of tactical-strategic games (League of Legends, Dota 2).

Cyber athletes are separated from athletes… for now

The President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, is uncertain about the bright Olympic future of esports. “We are not yet one hundred percent sure that esports really is a sport, given the physical activity and everything that is required of a discipline to be considered as a sport,” he said. Bach also noted that so far the IOC does not see such an esports organization that would make committee members believe that the rules and values of the Olympics are respected within the framework of cyber disciplines.

On the contrary, Dmitry Smith, President of the Russian Computer Sports Federation, believes that the two concepts should not be separated. “Esports is exactly the same sport as any other that is called traditional. This is not a human-computer competition, this is a competition between two people or teams, an intellectual competition in which the computer acts as a sports equipment or a tournament ground”, he says. Smith also noticed that not all games are related to computer sports – for this the game must have a competitive element, be short-session, plotless and provide a level playing field for competing players. Therefore, in esports, competitions are held in about 20 games out of hundreds of thousands or even millions of existing ones.

Professional cyber athletes competing on a global level,  make sure to pay attention to their physical condition. Victory from defeat can be separated by a millisecond, everything is decided by the athlete’s reaction and speed of thinking, and a high level of these parameters cannot be achieved without good physical condition and preparation. Esports, agrees Darren Keane from Shangri La, is not weightlifting or steeplechase, but there is no particular difference between it and such long-established sports as, for example, chess or archery. As for the psychological aspect, there are no differences at all. Cyber athletes are also focused on winning, they have what is called a sporting spirit, and like any other sport, esports is outside of politics.

Not a child’s game

The global audience of eSports, as we wrote at the beginning, already exceeds 500 million people, which is quite comparable with the audience of other sports, and at the same time is growing by 10-20 percent annually. If we talk about financial indicators, the volume of the global esports market in 2020 grew by 15.7 % and amounted to $ 1.1 billion, and in 2023 will exceed $ 1.5 billion, according to the report of the analytical agency NewZoo “Global Esports Market Report”. More than 500 million will come from advertising, sponsorship and rights to broadcast esports events, about 100 million – from the proceeds from the sale of tickets to events and branded products.

Bookmakers accept bets on esports, and they already bet more on it than on golf, rugby and tennis, according to Michael Boettcher, Shangri La founder. It is planned that by 2023 the investments of companies in esports will double, thanks to which the total industry revenue will grow to $ 3 billion. It is not surprising that such an audience is attracting more and more large companies and not only from the IT sector, interested in promoting their brands among young, fairly wealthy and interested in modern technologies.

According to NewZoo, China is the world’s top eSports market ($ 385 million), followed by North America ($ 253 million) and Western Europe ($ 201 million). At the same time, it is noted that due to the urbanization processes acceleration, the IT sphere development and the growing mobile gaming popularity, the esports markets of Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Middle East are growing at a rapid pace.

The most popular esports tournament was the League of Legends World Championship, which has collected over 100 million hours of views on YouTube and Twitch. The most watched league was the Overwatch League, which also amassed a combined total of over 100 million hours, added Darren Keene, Shangri La.

League of Legends remains the most popular esports game according to NewZoo. Live broadcasts of the tournaments have collected over 400 million hours of views. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is in second place, Dota 2 is in third place, followed by Overwatch and Hearthstone. At the same time, such mobile disciplines as PUBG Mobile, Garena Free Fire and Mobile Legends Bang Bang burst into the top 25.