Esports growth continues toward mainstream
♦ ESPN now includes broadcasts as locals get in on games too
Sports fans who’ve tuned into ESPN only to witness two video game characters throwing balls of blue energy at each other while shouting “Hadouken!” may have been confused, but they were on the right channel.
Esports, or competitive video games, have reached levels of popularity where television giants like Disney, the parent company of ESPN, now consider the likes of Street Fighter, Overwatch, Fortnite, and other popular titles worthy of airtime alongside offerings
like Major League Baseball, College Football and for special events like the National Spelling Bee.
While traditional sports are still the top dog in viewership, there are growing similarities between the physical sports world and the digital one.
The sponsorships, team salaries, tournament winnings, and notoriety offered by Esports are incentives for players around the world -- including those in small towns just like the ones here in Polk County. They have the same kind of performance-based contracts in many cases that star athletes get when they are drafted by the big leagues in their sport.
Sums large enough in Esports to begin attracting youngsters who think they have the talent to go pro out to national-sized tournaments.
Among those in past weeks were Noah Green and Brandon Graham once again ventured to Community Effort Orlando (CEO) to try their luck in the year’s VHFRQG ELJJHVW ¿JKWLQJ JDPH tournament.
True to the growth of the industry, CEO left its smaller Orlando venue for the 200,000-square foot Daytona Beach Ocean Center.
Those skilled enough to get a top 8 placing in one or more of the 14 tournaments earned the right to compete in an arena of cheering fans.
While neither Green nor Graham competed for very long, the spectator aspect RI ¿JKWLQJ JDPHV ZDV MXVW as important.
The chance to see a favorite player soon to be defeated and sent home can be just as nausea-inducing as holding the controller yourself, but seeing them WDNH ¿UVW SODFH FDQ PDNH a fan equally ecstatic. The same way English fans felt in past weeks as well when they watched their team fall in the later rounds of the World Cup.
³+XQJU\ER[ LV GH¿QLWHO\ my favorite melee (Smash Bros.) player,” Green said. “I was pretty sure he’d win, and it was just as hype as last year.”
Larger tournaments also typically double as conventions. ]
Over 7,000 people attended CEO from June 29 through July 1, and the activities spanned far more than just competing and watching.
The Artist Alley sported homemade merchandise for QHDUO\ HYHU\ ¿JKWLQJ JDPH imaginable, and the event served as an opportunity for self-employed artists to take home some extra money. Old-school veterans who grew up with arcade culture were no doubt pleased with ‘Jebailey Land’ which offered new and vintage titles in classic arcade cabinets.
Notable community members also hosted panels where everything from sponVRUVKLSV WR ¿JKWLQJ JDPH anime became hot topics.
“Being on the beach this year was a nice touch, but the venue kept us busy most of the time,” Graham said.
When players did venture off, it was typically to visit a local restaurant or shop. Badge-wearing players could be seen around Daytona all weekend, and the event no doubt served as an economic boost to the city.
As the industry grows it wouldn’t be too unexpected to see a few virtual athletes around Polk.
There’s big opportunity out there in the growing world of competitive video gaming.
In 2018, the Esports industry is predicted to be worth $905 million, which is a 38 percent increase from 2017’s $655 million. Forbes suggests the industry will be worth over a billion dollars by 2020, and viewership for the most popular games rivals or outperforms some of the biggest entertainment in the world.
Tournament series Friday Fortnite pulled in over 8.8 million unique viewers during its fourth week, which reportedly clashed with The Walking Dead that maintains an average of about 7 million viewers each week.
That just accounts for viewership. Billions are made annually just from the sale of games, from the advertising built into the software and additional ingame purchases that companies sell to players, so marketing opportunities for companies who invest in gamers who stream their matches on platforms like Twitch and Youtube, and more. Add on the costs for hardware to run games that sometimes come on a variety of platforms, and the costs for players can go up.
Also, don’t forget about the registration fees. Just to compete in the CEO tournament cost $65, and that was only if gamers got their contest entry in before May 31. Then prices went up to $75, and $100.
Spectators alone paid $50 for a three-day badge.
)RU ¿JKWLQJ JDPHV (YR is like the Olympics.
Held in the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay Arena, 11,472 entrants will compete across 8 games later in August.
This number is up 15 percent from last year’s 9707.
Those interested in watching or visiting can visit http://evo.shoryuken. com/.
Players used arcade cabinets in ‘Jebailey Land’ during the CEO event in Daytona Beach in late June.