The Popularity of eSports

by Sahil Veeramoney

The topic of video games has been one that has terrorized adolescent households around the world since the late 1970’s.

Twenty years ago, if you told someone that a whole industry would revolve around video games and the respective players who play such games they would probably laugh in your face and proceed to challenge you to a bet for an absurd amount (which they do not have) about how you will be incorrect.

Well, luckily for you, you can now go collect on that debt and spend all that money on spicy chicken from Tokyo Grill because the professional video game industry or “e-Sports,” is growing rapidly. Now, if you are still one of those, “What? You can make money playing video games,” people, I strongly encourage to read my article because you might learn something (but probably not).

To learn more about this industry, how fast it has grown, and its immense potential, let us go back about a decade. Obviously, one cannot pinpoint the exactly where and when e-Sports was officially born, but the birth of these now-huge culture can be majorly accredited to Asia, specifically Korea.

The Asian financial crisis of 1997 sparked an increase in unemployment which may have enabled people to pursue other passions during free-time. In 2000, the Korean e-Sports Association was formed and games like Starcraft and Warcraft III were some of the first games to be actually televised.

However, the viewership of e-Sports was sporadic and companies based on regulating and promoting the industry went under because of the lack of stability.

But the emergence and sponsorship of major corporations like Intel sponsoring tournaments like Intel Extreme Masters began to drew a wider audience because the increased budget for such events grew production value.

Tournaments went from 200 caffeinated college-students packed together in a rented space over the weekend to tournaments at larger venues with actual production value which made games more fun to watch. In addition, more sponsorship meant more prize money which drew more gamers to compete professionally.

Now professionals gamers can play games such as Counter-strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (HS), and League of Legends (LoL) to earn a stable-income and a chance to compete at worldwide tournaments. Right now, League of Legends undoubtedly has the biggest industry and viewership so I will delve into this game to demonstrate how much e-Sports can provide.

First off, professional teams are split into multiple regions: North America (NA-LCS), Europe (EU-LCS), Korea (LCK), China (LPL), Taiwan/Hong Kong (LMS), and an international wild-card (IWC) bracket which includes teams from less popularized places. Each region has a set-amount of teams which contract specific players to play the game.

These players (LoL) sign professional contracts to earn, on-average, $58,000 a-year. More prominent and well-known players can earn up to $350,000 annually. However, most of these professionals live in “gaming-houses” which they practice from throughout the season.

So, food and lodging expenses are paid for by the organizations for which these professional players play for. In addition, the emergence of streaming services like and enable players to “stream” their games during the off-season in real-time to a large viewership where they can earn “donations,” from random people and “ad-revenue,” from subscribers and the amount of people watching.

These streaming service enable gamers to supplement their income by $1,000 per-month if enough time is spent playing the game.

However, the most impressive statistic might be the prize-money available from national tournaments. The League of Legends World Championship sponsors a 1 million dollar award for the team which earns first place.

Other tournaments sponsor prizes about to $500,000. When so much money is available, players are more determined to practice and win, and viewers enjoy watching more.

Now, more prominent figures are flocking to the growing industry. Former NBA professional Rick Fox now owns a League of Legends professional team in the United States. Recently, Riot Games, the company that created League of Legends was in the works with ESPN to stream live games for a 500 million dollar contracts.

Do you agree with the fact that these players should be making so much money playing games? Maybe not.