Professional eSports is becoming a big thing

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This post was originally published at TechCrunch.

When Starcraft 2 Wings of Liberty launched, I played Starcraft 2 online a lot. And by that I mean a lot. As a result of this 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 as well as stopped following the eSports scene. However, this period only marked the very beginning of the professional eSports industry. Twitch had just launched, and only the top players could make a living of the winnings.

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

The total market for eSports high estimate is at $749 million and Asia is still the largest market with over $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 eSports at $325 million, where North America leads revenue growth and Asia fuels audience growth.

According to Statista, the majority of the 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.

As money pours in to the world of eSports, so does 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 Adderal to increase focus during tournaments. As a result of this, the Electronic Sports League will require players to take drug tests at their events.

The world of eSports is also facing high levels of gender disparity, as the eSports-scene is almost entirely male-dominated. Both in terms of players and viewers. Even though women represent half of the game-playing market, only 20% of eSports audience are women. The representation of 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 where several women in the gaming community was systematically harassed and received threats of sexual violence and even murder. This also reflects on the eSports scene, where female players report of a disproportionately high level of harassment while streaming.

Despite these problems, eSports is still at its infancy stage, and is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of more than 25 % from 2015 throughout 2021, with an estimated market size between $1,1 billion and close to $2 billion by 2019. This is only the eSports industry itself. The gambling industry is following eSports 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 eSports to be as natural part of entertainment as monday night football in the future.

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