ESPN recently opened a new section of its large media empire that will be devoted to eSports. The new addition, ESPN ESports, will provide offseason coverage on players and leagues, gamer profiles and videos and articles dealing with the current topics in the eSports scene. The website currently has devoted sections for “League of Legends,” “Dota 2,” and “Hearthstone,” however there has also been coverage of “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.”
Many people voiced criticism about the creation of ESPN ESports, but this has actually been in the works for a while now. In an interview with Forbes, ESPN.com Editor-in-Chief Chad Millman said that the creation of ESPN ESports began about a year ago after an eSports edition of ESPN The Magazine was published. He said that after seeing the positive feedback to the eSports coverage and the growing fan base, they decided to create a permanent sector devoted to eSports.
To understand the movement of eSports into mainstream media, it is important to understand that this is not a new thing. ESports on TV started in the early 2000s with the game “Starcraft: Brood War” having competitive matches that were being shown on TV in South Asian countries. In fact, there was a channel in South Korea called NBC Game that was entirely devoted to gaming content. This was also attempted in the US with a channel called G4, which had content focused on gaming, technology, movies and comics. Sadly, both of these channels have been shut down.
But the past failures of mainstream eSports came from poor planning on the production side, not the gaming side. In fact, eSports as a whole have never been as big as they are now. Amazon bought Twitch, the main site for video game streaming, around 2 years ago for $970 million. There are people who play video games on Twitch for a living, and these people are making 6 figure salaries. There are online and offline competitive leagues for every competitive game imaginable, and the prize pools in these leagues can be massive. Dota 2 had a world wide competition known as The International last year that had an $18 million prize pool. The research firm Newzoo predicts that eSports profits will reach $765 million by 2018.
So it is simple to see that eSports is on the rise. To those who have never watched a video game played competitively, I would recommend that giving it a shot. Competitive gaming is incredibly high energy, fast-paced and involves a huge amount of technical ability and game strategy, but can still be enjoyed with little knowledge about the game. There are some games like LoL or Dota 2 that require in-depth knowledge to watch, but there are also games like CS:GO or Super Smash Brothers Melee which are easy to watch without ever having played them. In fact the competitive gaming scene has become large enough to where anyone can find a game they enjoy watching, even if they are not a skilled gamer themselves. So I would recommend that everyone give ESports a shot, because they won’t be going away for quite some time.