The wide world of e-sports

I played a lot of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty online when it launched. And by that I mean a lot. As a result, I inevitably drifted into watching streams of other players competing in order to improve my own game. I even remember having my favorite casters, Husky and TotalBiscuit, in addition to following Team Liquid

Eventually I stopped playing as much, and even stopped following the e-sports scene. However, this period only marked the very beginning of the professional e-sports industry. Twitch had just launched, and only the top players could make a living of the winnings.

Since then, professional e-sports has become a global industry, and has gained interest from major players like Disney and Time Warnerand ESPN is set to launch a dedicated e-sports channel. Indeed, the worldwide e-sports market has reached more than 134 million viewers, and major brands like Coca Cola, Red Bull and Bud Light are backing the growing arena of e-sports.

The total market for e-sports is estimated at $749 million; Asia is still the largest market, with more than $321 million in revenue, followed by North America at $224 million, Europe at $172 million and the rest of the world accounting for $29 million. The researchers at Newzoo estimate the total direct revenues from e-sports at $325 million, where North America leads revenue growth and Asia fuels audience growth.

According to Statista, the majority of revenues is from sponsorships and advertising, with a total of $579 million in revenues, followed by betting and fantasy sites at $55 million, prize pools at $55 million and amateur tournaments, merchandise and ticket sales at $61 million.

The Electronic Sports League will require players to take drug tests at their events.

As money pours in, so do the controversies. Match-fixing is becoming an increasing problem, and a Korean player attempted suicide after learning that the team’s manager was forcing them to throw matches. Drug use is also becoming an issue, as players take Adderall to increase focus during tournaments. As a result, the Electronic Sports League will require players to take drug tests at their events.

The world of e-sports is also facing high levels of gender disparity, as the e-sports scene is almost entirely dominated by male players and viewers. Even though women represent half of the game-playing market, women comprise only 20 percent of the e-sports audience. And the representation of competitive female players is considered criminally small compared to the total amount of female video game players.

Misogynism and sexism is already a widespread problem in the video game industry and community as a whole, and reached new heights with the Gamergate scandal when several women in the gaming community were systematically harassed and received threats of sexual violence — and even murder. This also reflects on the e-sports scene, where female players report a disproportionately high level of harassment while streaming.

Despite these problems, e-sports is still in its infancy, and is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of more than 25 percent from 2015-2021, with an estimated market size between $1.1 billion and close to $2 billion by 2019. This is only the e-sports industry itself. The gambling industry is following e-sports closely, and projected fans to bet around $23.5 billion on e-sports by 2020.

With a generation growing up watching PewDiePie and Minecraft streams on YouTube, we should probably prepare for e-sports to be as natural a part of entertainment as Monday Night Football.