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The explosive growth of eSports

This sport will soon be a 1 billion dollar business with a global audience of over 300 million fans. But it doesn’t involve a ball, stadiums or grass pitches.

Welcome to the world of eSports.

E-what?

eSports (short for Electronic Sports) is the name given to professional competitive gaming. In a nutshell, competitors play video games, while being watched by a live audience. Millions more watch the games online.

One major tournament, the 2016 League of Legends World Championship finals, attracted 43 million viewers.

League of Legends is a hugely popular fast-paced action strategy game. Gamers battle to be crowned the best in the world, competing to earn $1 million in prize money.

In fact, winning eSports tournaments can net participants up to $25 million when winnings, sponsorship and appearance fees are taken into account.

The highest earning player, German Kuro Takhasomi, has earned almost $3.5 million to date.

Growing fanbase

Fans watch on YouTube’s gaming channel or on Twitch, a dedicated gaming channel on the web. eSports viewers spent 17.9 million hours watching their gaming heroes on those channels in the first quarter of 2018. The most popular game to watch is Dota 2, followed by League of Legends and Counter Strike: Global Offensive.

The global eSports audience will reach 380 million this year, made up of 165 million dedicated eSports fans and 215 million occasional viewers.

Is it sport?

Just like traditional sport, eSports has its fair share of professionals, commentators and celebrities.

Prize money is certainly comparable to more traditional sports. The National Basketball Association prize pool is $13 million, the Golf Masters is $11 million and the Confederations Cup is $20 million. eSports exceeds each of them with a total prize pool of $24.7 million.

In fact, FIFA has its own eWorld Cup, where the 32 best FIFA18 Xbox and PlayStation players will compete for the title of FIFA eWorld Cup Champion.

eSports has become so popular, that even the International Olympic committee is trying to understand it better. The IOC and the Global Association of International Sports Federations are jointly hosting an eSports Forum at the Olympic Museum in France.