Right now, all over the world, people are competing in video game arenas. Whether it’s the dynamic platforms and deep combat of Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros or the team-based shooting action of Blizzard’s Overwatch, competitive gaming has been embraced wholeheartedly thanks to greater console penetration and faster, more consistent internet.
The rise of online gaming won’t come as a surprise to most, but today, the biggest action happens face-to-face in massive arenas across China, America and Europe. Esports, as professional video game competitors have come to be known, take professional gaming to the next level, with elite players of some of the top competitive games facing off for prize pools which can top out at over £76m.
For those who don’t play or watch video games, these astonishing numbers can catch you off guard – are people really being paid that much to play video games!? – but the reality is that Esports are quickly gaining ground on traditional sports in viewership and prize pools, shaking the establishment to its core. But what do you need to know about Esports? Join us as we explain.
What are Esports?
Getting to grips with Esports begins first with broadening your definition of what constitutes ‘sport’. For many of us, we think of sport as a physical activity like football, cricket or rugby. Gaming, on the other hand, is a hobby or a pastime.
Well, at the very top level, it certainly is a sport. Using advanced techniques and extreme precision and (if the game demands it) teamwork, elite competitors in Esports exhibit many of the same mental and physical characterizes of elite players of other sports.
In terms of format, Esports competitions are typically held in arenas with tens of thousands of fans present, huge screens showing the action and competitions sat centrally, fighting it out live.
Adding to the drama are live commentators, offering play-by-play coverage of the whole event in a fashion not unlike traditional sport.
The appeal of seeing the very best players in the world is undeniable for fans, of course, but the secret to Esports growth has been the fact that tournaments are freely available to stream online, where over 100 million people watch regularly, with many betting on the action via Esports betting companies like Mr Green too.
In all ways bar physical, then, Esports resemble traditional sports, but…
What Games are Played?
Not every game is destined for Esports greatness, with most Esports games requiring deep skill levels, a thriving competitive scene and – most crucially –popularity. Popularity drives viewers and increases audience understanding, ensuring a more enjoyable and profitable experience for everyone.
The popularity of certain games will rise and fall, of course, but which are the biggest Esports games? Here are the biggest Esports games, according to Esports betting outfit Mr Green, an online bookie which combines traditional betting markets with Esports:
Dota 2 – A free to play MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena), developed by Valve (Portal, Half-Life), with immense complexity and a hugely active user base.
League of Legends – Similar to Dota 2 in it being a free to play MOBA with team-based qualities, League of Legends released in 2010 and remains one of the biggest Esports around.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive – Counter-Strike is a veteran series in Esports and CS: GO remains hugely popular. Fast-paced, accurate shooting in teams is the order of the day, with elite players raking in millions.
Fortnite – A free to play ‘Battle Royale’ game where a maximum of 100 players are dumped on a single, huge map and must scavenge for weapons and materials to kill their opponents and construct structures in order to survive. Only one person (or team) is left standing, and that’s the winner.
Overwatch – Developed by Blizzard, who also created hugely popular Esport titles Starcraft 2, Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, Overwatch has taken the Esport scene by storm with over 600 tournaments held. It’s a team-based hero shooter, where the variety of distinct characters and the balance between them ensures no two games ever play the same.
Anyone interested in taking their first steps into the world of following – or even playing – Esports can turn to Twitch.tv and YouTube to get a feel of the games and competition.