For those with an interest in competitive gaming, the rise of “eSports” may be a familiar topic. Essentially the term given to live gaming events and tournaments that attract viewing audiences (both in person and through online streaming), eSports has become a growing, if loosely defined, industry that incapsulates all kinds of gaming experiences all across the world.
Earlier this year, a Forbes article ran the somewhat cheeky headline that “Video Game Tournaments Are The Real March Madness,” comparing eSports popularity to that of college basketball’s famous tournament. The crazy thing is, the numbers addressed in the article actually do look like those of a major televised sporting event. Specifically, the article pointed to this year’s Intel Extreme Masters League of Legends World Championship, which attracted a peak audience of over one million people! This is yet another clear indication that there is a very real interest in live gaming events in tournaments.
In the U.S., the most popular example of live gaming events is probably Major League Gaming, which has become, for all intents and purposes, something of a professional sports league. Featuring tournaments throughout the year in a variety of popular games, MLG’s next upcoming main event will be in late June in Anaheim, California. The event spans three days, bringing enormous crowds of gamers to California to compete in several games ideally suited for tournament play and competition (this year, Call Of Duty: Ghosts, Starcraft 2, Super Smash Bros: Melee, Injustice: Gods Among Us, and Killer Instinct). It marks arguably the biggest competitive gaming event on the U.S. calendar. We won’t know the viewership numbers until this event occurs, but for an indication of the popularity of MLG, its own website claims 262% growth in online video consumption in 2013!
The online poker industry has also tapped into the idea of increased spectatorship and amateur participation, oddly enough by going back to live events. While it may seem somewhat counterintuitive for online poker sites to host live events, the integration of online promotions and live events has brought a new dynamic to the game that connects amateurs and professionals and brings online attention to major events. This summer’s WPT500 event at the Aria casino in Las Vegas, which PartyPoker recently announced on Twitter, is the next major upcoming example. It will feature a $1 million prize package doled out among winners that could include players who work their way in simply via online promotions and preliminary tournament wins. The whole concept really lends a sort of league/tournament feel to online casino gaming. Furthermore, in addition to televised contests, WPT events can also be streamed online, increasing casino gaming’s accessibility as a spectator “sport.”
These are only a few examples of high-profile gaming tournaments and organizations. As viewership numbers continue to climb, we’ll likely see more examples in the same lane as the Intel Extreme Masters League of Legends, Major League Gaming, and the WPT live events. Already there are numerous additional outlets for more casual gaming tournaments, from countless online venues to the popular Virgin Gaming tournaments on Xbox Live. Long story short, if you’re curious about trends in the gaming industry: spectator gaming is only just getting started!