What are eSports? What you need to know about the multi-million pound gaming industry

Professional video gaming is big business and it’s watched by millions.

While it may not command the airtime or column inches of traditional sports, eSports - professional video gaming - is not a new phenomenon.

In fact, it's watched, enjoyed and obsessed over by millions around the globe. Don't see what all the fuss is about? Read on, and you might just be a convert...

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What are eSports?

eSports, or electronic sports, are professional video game competitions. While it’s still growing in popularity here, eSport events are huge in South Korea where millions watch the games.

Globally, reports from Newzoo say that the eSports global audience grew from 204 million to 292 million between 2014 and 2016 - a 43% increase in just two years.

How do you play eSports?

eSports are not played between friends who like gaming, but between well-drilled teams in big stadiums set up with screens so thousands can watch the games. Just like in football, teams are passionately supported.

What video games are played?

League of Legends, Defence of the Ancients 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Starcraft II are just a few.  

To give some context, according to stats portal Statista, League of Legends is the most played computer game on the planet, with 100 million people playing each month in 2016.

The games are split roughly into multiplayer online battle arena games and first person shooter games.  

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How do I pick an eSports team?

Spencer

Spencer 'Gorilla' Ealing with the UK Esports Player of the Year award 2017

Much like picking a football team, which eSport team you favour depends on personal taste but is far less likely to depend on who your parents supported.

Among the founding members of the World eSports Association (WESA), which was created in 2016, are Fnatic, Natus Vincere, EnVyUs, Virtus.Pro, Gamers2, Faze, mousesports and Ninjas in Pyjamas.

How much money is there in eSports?

A lot. CNN reported figures from market research service Newzoo which said that global revenue in the eSports industry had risen from $194 million to $463 million from 2014 to 2016.

By 2019, eSports are estimated to be worth more than $1 billion.

The winners are looking at big prize money, too. Some teams take home millions of pounds, which they split between their members.

Has this money attracted market interest?

Of course. In 2014 Amazon bought Twitch, the live streaming video platform that is the leader in online gaming broadcasts. YouTube has also invested in eSports by creating YouTube Gaming.

Where can I watch eSports live?

To watch live eSports in the UK, head to the Gfinity Arena in southwest London which seats 600.

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