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No longer are eSports the wave of the future, they are here and now. Over the last decade, eSports have grown at an exponential rate, with a number of games picking up a huge following and receiving substantial investment. These games are no longer played in stuffy auditoriums, instead receiving their own arenas as developers and owners look to develop their brands. With dedicated streaming platforms, television contracts, and much more, it’s clear that eSports are now on par with standard sports.
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Over the last two decades, eSports have slowly morphed into a serious business. Throughout the 1990s and the early 2000s, there was very little investment or development in eSports. People were playing, and loving, video games, but there just wasn’t much a competitive scene for them. Games like Quake and StarCraft were able to have some decent-sized competitions, but it was nothing compared to what we would see starting in 2002.
The foundation of Major League Gaming heralded a new age for eSports. While StarCraft had been flourishing in Asia for a few years, there was not much of a scene in North America prior to MLG. It took a couple years for MLG to get going, but in 2004 they held national championships for Halo and Super Smash Brothers Melee. The success of those events led to MLG expanding its offerings, adding three new eSports in 2007, and signing the first ever television contract for eSports.
In the past decade, eSports have really taken off. Third-party organizations rarely run the major games and tournaments anymore, as the developers have gotten more and more involved. These days developers are in charge of their own eSports, and most have adopted the formats of traditional sports. Franchises are sold to owners, who are in charge of managing their teams and staying competitive in an increasing cutthroat scene.
CS:GO - Counter-Strike has been one of the most popular first-person shooters since its inception. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is the fourth game in the series, and it has been played competitively since a few months after it was released in August 2012. CS:GO has around a dozen major tournaments per year and major leagues in both Europe and North America. It is also one of the only eSports that has been broadcast on regular television. TBS has run and broadcast the ELEAGUE since early 2017, and the tournament has been a big success.
DOTA2 - DOTA2 is not exceptionally popular in the West, but it is massive in Asia. This game was originally a mod to Blizzard’s Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, but it has since evolved into its own stand-alone game. There are plenty of tournaments with large prize pools throughout the year, but The International has long stood out as the biggest tournament in eSports. The first three tournaments had impressive prize pools, but The International took things to the next level with a prize pool of over $10 million in 2014. Since then, the numbers have only increased with a purse of nearly $25 million for The International 2017.
League of Legends - It could be argued that League of Legends was the first global eSport. League of Legends is enjoyed and played competitively in over a dozen regions around the world, and all of those regions will send at least one team to the World Championship at the end of the year. This is the most popular eSport in the world right now, with hundreds of thousands tuning in to watch domestic league play every week. Millions will watch the two major international events every year, the Mid-Season Invitational and the World Championship, and this league is the one that others are looking to emulate in terms of its success.
Overwatch - Overwatch is the newcomer on the scene when it comes to eSports. The game came out in May 2016 and was immensely successful. Tournaments were held shortly after its release, but this last year Blizzard took control of the competitive scene. The company has signed enormous sponsorship deals with various brands and services, and the initial franchising fee of $20 million highlighted that eSports are now serious business.
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