Esports: Not just a game, but big business

For many boys and girls across the world, their dream is to be a professional sports star when they grow up. They are often taken to stadiums when they are young and are instantly enthralled by the bright lights, big crowds, and the deafening sound of when their team scores a goal, touchdown, or home run. Of course, that enthusiasm is probably only increased when they find out what the top sports stars are paid each year, but to begin with, their passion is pure. They want to play the game as a job because they love the game, nothing more and nothing less.

Unfortunately, for the vast majority of kids, this dream is an unachievable one. It takes not only an enormous amount of skill to become a professional athlete, but also a huge slice of luck, as well as an unwavering dedication and focus to hone your craft. There are many talented players who get to the age of 14 or 15, who are so close to making the big step up, but they get distracted by other leisurely pursuits such as drinking, drugs, or members of the opposite (or same) sex. These are the ones who fall just short in their pursuit of making it as a professional.

Even if you are accepted into an academy, it is incredibly unlikely to lead to automatic success. There is a damning statistic that looked at all the youth footballers in the UK in academy setups. Out of an estimated 1.5 million kids, only 180 of them are likely to make it all the way to the Premier League, which is fewer than 1%. It seems terribly unfair, but unfortunately, that is the way of life at the top, it can be incredibly cruel.

Even twenty years ago, those failing to make it as a professional would then have to turn to what we would call ‘normal work’. However, since the rise of the internet and online gaming, younger kids now have a potentially new profession for them to aspire to get into; the professional gamer. While obviously to achieve this still requires an extraordinary amount of dedication and skill, what makes this different from a regular sport is that it can be practised at home, without the need of travelling to a training pitch to be coached. Now, your teammates are connected with you via your headset, instead of needing them to help you kick a soccer ball around.

The rise of the professional gamer has also seen a sharp increase in the number of Esports tournaments that now happen throughout the year, in a number of different formats on all kinds of consoles. Not only that, but many betting sites will offer odds on these tournaments, to make them even more interesting to watch. A recent BetOnline review study showed them to be one of the best places to bet on Esports. Given that bookmakers now offer odds on Esports, it shows that it really is becoming a big business.

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No longer kids just sitting in a dark room

We all know the stereotype of the kid who would rather be sitting inside with the curtains drawn on a beautifully sunny day, playing on their games console instead of running around outside. However, there has been a real shift in the profile of gamers in recent times, and this ‘nerdy’ type are no longer the norm when people describe the average gamer. Now, adults with children and full-time jobs are almost as likely to play games online as teenagers are.

In a recent article, Adam Rivers, Director of Economics at KPMG, claimed that during the pandemic, people truly embraced digital entertainment, and specifically video games. He believes four out of five people in the US would have at least tried a video game in lockdown.

Twitch, a live stream platform that specialises in video games apparently saw over 5 billion hours of content being watched between April and June in 2020, an increase of 56% for the first quarter of the year.These are numbers that just can’t be ignored. And they’re not being ignored. Businesses are sensing the opportunity to sponsor these Esports tournaments, getting their names and brands out there. Not only that but professional gamers are now being sponsored as well by huge companies, such as Amazon, Logitech and Pepsi. Not long ago these businesses would never have dreamed of getting involved with gamers and gaming, now they are fighting amongst each other for who gets a bigger piece of the pie.

Esports are here to stay. They might not replace the popularity of traditional sports, and even if they do, it is unlikely to happen for many years yet. But even so, we expect their popularity to only increase in years to come.

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