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What are eSports? A Guide to Professional Gaming
August 8, 2018
Whether you’re a gambler or a gamer, spectator or participant, you’ve probably caught wind of the eSports phenomenon. The industry has taken the world of professional gaming by storm, generating huge revenue and an equally large hope in the hearts of amateur players.
If you’re curious about eSports games and how you can get involved in this exploding scene, read on. Turning your passion into a bankable trade might not be as impossible as you think.
The eSports explosion - what it is and why you should care
Find yourself scratching your head, trying to pin down the elusive answer to “what is eSports gaming?” You’re not alone.
A quick Google search will show you plenty of hotly contested opinions about video game tournaments and who the best eSports teams are, leaving a lot unsettled.
Explained simply, eSports games are played by professional gamers in well-established video game competitions. Gamers duke it out for prizes that are alluring and attractive, to say the very least. Imagine taking your bedroom play to the big screen before millions of viewers sitting on the edge of their seat. Then imagine them all watching you steal the final objective to walk away with that $25,000 check. (Yes, it’s actually possible.)
Fans get so invested in eSports games that they’ll even fly to video game tournaments in hoards to watch their favorite players live. They’ll drop money and make bets on winners, feeling crushed when their representative first-person shooter (FPS) player is defeated.
The graphics on the latest triple-A (AAA) eSports games are hyper-realistic and incredibly immersive, combining a cinematic experience with real-life, heart-pumping adrenaline for both players and spectators alike. Even if you’re not a gamer, the eSports industry commands some head-turning attention.
Developments in eSports news have made plenty of recent headlines. For instance, the industry’s 2018 revenue is predicted to hit $905 million, a 38% growth over 2017 . Similar to traditional sports, there’s also a ton of money in professional gaming. eSports fans flood arenas wearing their favorite eSports team jerseys, hungry for the autograph of their favorite “athlete.”
Millions more watch from home, opening all sorts of opportunities for advertising, branding, and media deals. Fantasy leagues of professional gamers actively thrive on sites like DraftKings, which offers massive payouts.
Tons of college campuses have included eSports teams in their list of organizations. ESPN airs televised pro eSports video game tournaments and Columbus, Ohio is developing a huge $10 million eSports arena . Multiple eSports leagues have emerged, luring investors from traditional sports leagues and video game manufacturers . Even the International Olympic Committee is considering adding eSports to their list of future competitions .
Businesses small and large are paying attention to the booming eSports market and you should be, too.
Light the up competition, score lucrative rewards
Epic Games®, the developer of the immensely popular eSports game Fortnite, announced that it will provide $100 million in video game tournament prize money during its first season of competitive play. Many of the top tournament gamers play Fortnite on PC.
At the Overwatch world stage, held by Blizzard Entertainment®, $488,000 is on the line, on top of massive bragging rights. For most eSports athletes, it’s all about being the best of the best.
Of course, the lucrative prize money from eSports earnings never hurts, and neither do the endorsements, potential sponsorships, or cosmetic prizes. The prize money comes from players’ video game tournament fees, purchases from downloadable content, advertisements, and sponsorship from large companies who host the event.
How eSports competitions work
So how do eSports competitions work?
For starters, the digital nature of eSports games means the pros can play for hours on end without experiencing the fatigue akin to other sports. Video game tournaments can host up to 20+ matches per day with eSports teams playing the best-of-five series all day long.
True to tournament style, the best eSports teams progress through their bracket until they reach the playoffs and, ultimately, the championship.
eSports teams are required to compete with members of the same nationality. Last year’s World Electronic Sports Games drew elite pros from 126 regions and countries. In the 2018-2019 competition, organizers expect over 65,000 gamers to show up to represent their countries.
Before you can get to the big leagues, though, you have to start small. Professional gaming takes off in small online communities until a leading eSports team can garner enough success and notoriety to make a name for themselves on a wider scale.
Top eSports games and their toughest contenders
There are tons of different eSports game genres, including fighting, racing, sports, real-time strategy (RTS), FPS, multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), and more. As a general rule, eSports are divided into two categories: team games (for instance Smite and Dota 2) and individual games (like StarCraft II and Hearthstone).
Interested in the most popular eSports leagues? The AAA games below have some of the biggest eSports video game competitions that the industry has ever seen.
- Overwatch (OW) - Team is at the core of this eSports game, but the character pick is everything. Every match is filled with intense multiplayer shooters, and you can count on snipers like SoOn and Roadhogs like EVERMORE to consistently deliver a show.
- League of Legends (LoL) - With a lively tournament scene and turbulent leaderboard, spectators of the LoL eSport are never shortchanged in the entertainment department. If you’re trying to step up your game, keep your eye on players like Faker and Smeb as they battle it out in sudden death matches.
- Fortnite - The battle royale-style competition in this recently-released eSports game created a craze bigger than fidget spinners. Trying to understand the hype? Watch and be mesmerized by top Fortnite players like Ninja and Cloakzy; they can edit pieces with impossible speed for that ever-coveted element of surprise.
- Arena of Valor (AoV) - AoV is an epic MOBA game that mobilizes the world of eSports. Gamers like EDU and Knight can ditch their PCs at home and take to their phones to smash the competition for some sizeable winnings.
- Call of Duty (CoD) - Fans love placing bets on CoD eSports tournaments and watching as players battle it out to secure areas of control. You’ll consistently see names like Slasher and Aches at the top of the leaderboards, who amass awe-inspiring killstreaks in this professional gaming staple.
Where to watch eSports showdowns
Curious about where to watch the action-filled eSports tournaments? Unless you can travel to the top destinations, you’ll probably have to watch from your TV screen. You can watch the OW League playoffs and championship on ESPN, ABC, Disney, and Disney XD.
Don’t have cable? Dying to catch the LoL eSports League or another untelevised tournament? Tune into a number of different live stream sites like Twitch to sit back and watch the world’s best players battle it out for millions in prize money.
Different broadcast channels you can watch from anywhere, nearly anytime, include:
Not sure which eSports are most riveting to tune into or where you should be paying attention? Newzoo’s gaming tracker ranks the top eSports games on Twitch and YouTube by the total number of hours watched.
According to their data as of July 2018, LoL registers at number one with 21.9 million total hours. Counter-strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 take second and third with 13.7 million and 7.0 million respectively.
How to join an eSports team and what you need to succeed
If you think you have what it takes to rise in the ranks of the eSports leaderboards, keep in mind that it requires a lot of time and patience, with epic comebacks and frustrating defeats, to establish yourself as an elite gamer.
When you’re ready to make a commitment to your eSports career, invest in a building a premium gaming rig that can hold up against the competition and take you to pro status. Then practice like crazy. For some professional gamers, this can add up to 8 hours per day or more. Learn every trick, tactic, and tool the masters have to offer. Watch loads of gameplay and learn how to lose; even when you’re defeated, you’re still getting practice in.
You’ll need to get involved in your gaming community of choice. Think of each AAA title as a sport of its own, comparing CoD to football or LoL eSports to the NBA.
Professional gaming is about individual talent, but you need to learn how to be an eSports team player. Once you’ve gained a reputation as a serious competitor and a force to be reckoned with, find a team. If you’re good enough, a team will come to you, otherwise, you have the ability to try out or foster a team of your own.
Enter any tournament you can. Play with each other as much as possible. Get exposure wherever you can. It’s a long climb up to the pro circuits, but with enough dedication, it can be done. But be prepared: professional gaming isn’t a hobby. To become the best of the best in eSports games, playing turns into a nine to five job with overtime.
No one says it’s easy, but turning your passion into profit is definitely possible. If eSports earnings and fame are what you’re after, stop waiting, start playing, and get a jump on your career.
 The eSports Observer, $10M Esports Arena in Development in Ohio as Part of Planet Oasis Complex
About the Author: Kaelee Nelson is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Kaelee is an experienced writer based in Southern California and specializes in creating informative content related to technology and digital culture.