When a certain tournament can offer a prize pot of $5.5million, your mind instantly drifts to huge sporting events popular not only nationally, but internationally as well. Perhaps football-related, or tennis-related, or maybe even golf-related, you’d guess. However, this figure in fact belongs to the AliSports World Electronic Sports Games, hosted by Chinese web giant Alibaba.
Alibaba has been keen to capitalise not only on the fact that Chinese teams are a force to be reckoned with in more and more “traditional” sports, but also that eGaming has become a huge sporting attraction in its own right, pulling in hefty audiences and becoming a household name in the entertainment arena. In 2017, 385 million people are expected to tune in to watch eSports events according to research from Newzoo, who are also predicting that by 2020, that audience number will have increased by up to 50%.
@pcgamer Sad. Worse than sad. Depressing.
Tune in for 2038 exfoliation championships, followed by the 2042 best breathing tournament.
— Blackwing Dragon (@BlackieDragon) April 19, 2017
In light of this growth and the rapid boom in popularity, it is no surprise that CS:GO has finally been launched in China. The game has previously been accessible, technically, in China, but has now been officially released in the country, with official distribution and support, including servers for gamers to play on.
This highlights the fact that while North America may still dominate the eSports Championship Series, Asia is catching up – and fast. It’s not only in terms of numbers, but also in terms of attitude. While the likes of Fox Sports are writing articles hoping that eSports never makes it to the Olympics, Asia as a continent seems to be embracing the chance to capitalise on the increased popularity of games like CS:GO. They have even pushed ahead with plans for eSports to be a medal event at the 2022 Asian Games, after the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) ruled that it would hold proper status at the Games, due to be held five years from now in Hangzhou, China.
CS:GO: A Key Reason for Growth
The emergence of CS:GO in China highlights the global growth and expansion of eSports, but it is also a reason behind the sector’s popularity explosion. This is evidenced by the recent news that Russian sports society Spartak has decided to enter the eSports world, boasting a CS:GO team as part of its plans. Clearly this is one of the games capable of crossing the European/Asian geographical divide, and it will be interesting to see if major players such as Frenchman kioShiMa will start to become global stars. If they do, it will be down to the fact that CS:GO has helped to open up parts of the world that are rapidly modernising and likely to be hugely interested by the chance to become leading players in the eSports world – just like China is aiming for.
— Brian tenempaguay (@Roar122) March 31, 2017
This sort of personality becoming popular around the globe is likely to further boost additional elements of the eSports market, with more people wearing eSports merchandise and cheering on the top teams and players at tournaments likely to further enhance its profile.
This is a trend already emerging in the UK, with the upcoming eSports Championship Series coming back to Wembley to be hosted at the SSE Arena. This arena is far more accustomed to hosting huge events such as the X Factor or gigs from some of the biggest names in the music world, but for two days it is being taken over by eSports as the top teams in the world, including the Betway -sponsored Ninjas In Pyjamas, take part. That collaboration was part of a six-figure deal from the iGaming brand. Other top teams due to take part at the event include Fnatic, a team with a long history which was founded back in 2004, and G2, partnered by tech behemoths Sennheiser and Razer Inc.
What is the Future for eSports?
The likelihood of eSports being entered into the likes of the Olympics, or having the global appeal of the Superbowl or the FIFA World Cup isn’t necessarily significant in the short-term, but it is clear that the growth of eSports in 2017 is such that in the long-term, it is going to be a sports market capable of rivaling the more traditional sports that have been a mainstay for centuries, despite the disdain that some commentators have for its future. For the time being, the fact that eSports generated over $493million in revenue in 2016 alone according to Newzoo proves that it has the global appeal that some sports – like curling, to name just one! – can only dream of.