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ESports: Taking the virtual world by storm
() 08:56 PM CEST - Aug,23 2017

Unless you have been habiting the past five years or so inside a cave in a remote location, the odds are that you have ran in to or even taken part in eSports in one way or another.

The world of competitive gaming is currently booming in a near uncontrollable pace and the industry is scrambling to maintain control of it. For the past couple of years both the revenue and the audiences have been growing between 40 and 50 percent annually, showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Games such as DotA 2, Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) and League of Legends (LoL) have gathered immense popularity. If these aren’t to your liking, there is a plethora of choice on how to make your living. Overwatch, Starcraft 2, Heartstone, Smite, Call of Duty, Halo, Street Fighter and even a Mario Bros version Super Smash Bros. Melee to name a few.

According to as many as 34 games have given out more than a million USD in tournament prize money. The number one is the final tournament of DotA 2, known as “The International”. In 2017 the prize pool was a sweltering $24,7 million, with the winners taking home a cool $10,8 million. This means $2.17 million for each member of Team Liquid.

More money and bigger sponsors has also brought a level of professionalism. The top teams have their own training facilities where they are well catered for alongside a steady, very healthy salary. Something which most teenagers can’t say that they have. From 2010 to 2017 the number of players who received prize money grew according to one report from under 800 to nearly 9000. A vast majority of them cannot be considered as full-time professionals, but it speaks volumes of the growth eSports is enjoying.

One of the most eyebrow raising facts is how competitive gaming has risen from being essentially a sub-culture to selling out stadiums in such a brief time. In early 2017 the Intel Extreme Masters in Katowice, Poland set the attendance record for an eSports event with 173,000 visitors. Even more impressively, the event gathered a stunning 46 million unique viewers online. To compare, that is over 15 million more than Trump’s inauguration ceremony managed to gather.

Therefore it isn’t a surprise that among others, the betting industry has taken keen interest on eSports and it’s now one of the fastest growing areas of betting. For now, cash gambling and fantasy eSports are small in comparison to both in-game gambling with items, or “skin gambling” and most regular gambling markets. However, a report of gambling in eSports estimates that the market size would be in billions already during 2017 and could reach over $10 billion by 2020.

With the potential being of this caliber, eSports dedicated betting sites have started to appear and many major bookmakers such as Betway have been investing heavily on eSports. Betway offered odds on 10 different eSports tournaments such as the world's biggest LAN party DreamHack Malmö, ESL and ESG with up to 50+ markets being available in the most popular matches in CS:GO, DotA 2 and LoL.

As the market has grown, so have the issues and threats to the health of the industry. Internet is teeming with coverage about cheating, drugs, illegal gambling and even match fixing around the professional matches with often dire consequences. The high pressure cut-throat industry can drive young people to commit desperate acts.

One of the issues is the lack of a global governing body which would unify the regulations and would have the ability to issue sanctions. This does happen already regionally in places such as the gaming capital of the world, South Korea and the UK. A major step towards the better was taken when the UK-based eSports Integrity Coalition (ESIC) was formed in 2016. With already strong backing from some of the biggest names in the industry, it looks promising. The relatively young industry is still finding its ways and is definitely going through serious growing pains, but one thing is for sure. We are far from seeing what eSports can actually become.

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