People enjoy easy access to eSport and physical sport entertainment that doesn’t involve them doing anything themselves. That shouldn’t be a secret these days with the dominance of YouTube, Twitch.tv, and long running traditional sports television. It’s very satisfying in the short run to watch people extremely skilled at something work their magic and leave the audience in awe. I’m no exception to that, as I like to watch several reality TV shows and occasionally tune into live Hearthstone or League of Legends eSports tournaments. Sometimes, it’s great to just be able to just observe and relax rather than get yourself worked up to overcome massive challenges.
Although their audiences are typically different, eSports and traditional sports like football, basketball, and baseball have a lot of overlap in their presentation. I would hazard to say that companies like Riot Games based large portions of their eSports presentation strategy off of how the established sports networks like ESPN have already been running things. These eSports already have the works just like their physical counterparts including fantasy leagues, play analysis, brackets, and sponsors.
The better internet connections and graphics get – the more prominent eSports become. Is the limit of video game and eSports popularity fast approaching or will it continue to see massive growth for many years to come? I have no statistics to accurately predict the ceiling that eSports will one day hit, but I can certainly point out the advantages that they have over regular sports. The rest of this article will go into the details of those advantages.
Advantages of eSports over Physical Sports
Gamers Are Already Online
The internet is by far the best way humanity has for the spread of information and notifying people when their favorite tournament stream is going to be starting. Geeky gamer types, the main audience of eSports, know how to use the internet and if they have significant interest in the showing of any video then I’d wager they have better odds of knowing ahead of time than the average television viewer.
eSports Generally Have Less Overhead
Physical sports must have a location which have a lot of elements that go into them including renting out the place, having your audience get to the location (gas/time costs), and snacks/food provided for sale or free for consumption. Contrasting that, small eSport tournaments can be started by having 20 players gather in an online chat room at a specified time and then have the footage streamed to sites like YouTube or Twitch.tv. At the highest level of course, many big eSport events will still have big stadiums filled out with thousands of audience members and require a lot of production efforts. In other cases though, some tournaments for games like Hearthstone have been done fully online with 10s of thousands of viewers.
Video Games Are Easier to and More Frequently Shared
If you’ve checked out YouTube then you probably already know that there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, who have uploaded video game content to the internet. Even seeing the plays of amateurs who aren’t very good can sometimes be funny or interesting which indirectly promotes interest in major tournaments for those games. To actually setup production for recording and editing an outdoor football or soccer game takes quite a bit more effort. A mom or dad can certainly take a camera out, record an entire match, and upload it to YouTube but how many people do you see willing to do that. When it comes to gaming, sharing can literally be as easy as hitting a stream button or hitting the Playstation 4’s share button.
Physical Sports Currently Depend on Government Subsidies
Video games and the companies running tournaments sprung out of the free market where as sports are heavily subsided with government tax money. More or less wherever government money gets involved, rules and regulations will strangle how operations are run. For any upstarts without those government subsidies, they will have to compete with the organizations that are already given money before they even start charging ticket prices. It ends up being a lot harder for new NFLs wannabes to compete with the established organizations that don’t even have to turn a profit on their own to stay operational.
eSports Are Very Profitable on Their Own
The successful eSport games are massively profitable without grant or subsidy money. Unless popularity dies out or bigger fish come along, the best will make bucket-loads of money in the current market. eSports strongly encourage consumers to log on to the game’s servers and play the game themselves where they will shell out a lot of money for extra in game goodies. Hearthstone easily snags people into buying packs of virtual cards and multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games like League of Legends or DOTA2 convince people to buy alternate skins for their favorite characters. eSport products have huge profit margins off the bat since their profits largely come from the sale of data which requires no factory to produce and are highly unregulated. Once a game has made a person invested in the game, they are frequently willing to shell out large sums of money to have access to that data.
eSports Adapt Faster
eSport games are quick to adapt and quickly change to provide a better experience for the consumer since they are run by companies that control from and profit from them. They have every incentive to change things just the right amount to make the game more entertaining for the their player base. Each game is frequently updated with major changes each month or every few months. The changes that game developers and designers carefully make try to improve their overall game and competitive scene to keep people interested and draw new players in. Major physical sports are not fully run and operated by one single organization. That is not always a bad thing but it does mean that the sports will be very slow to adapt to change. How quickly would football rules be to have changes propagate across the world for the sake of increasing popularity and profits? Is it quicker then a software development team testing changes and pushing out a patch to the computers of all players simultaneously? Well there you go, eSports are faster to respond to the market.
Limits of Physical Reality
Physical sports are limited to the physical world in their current form. I imagine that one day, even physical sports with be hyped up with lots of hologram projections, reverse gravity rooms, and super human robot bodies but for right now it’s what you see is more or less what you get. On television, they can certainly hype up the surrounding programming with flashy graphics but the game itself is grounded in reality. Video games have an advantage here in that anything a programmer can create is possible within the game world. Taboo subjects can be touched upon, reality defying feats are common place, and real injuries are nonexistent.
By no means am I inferring that video games will eliminate physical sports from the marketplace. Although watching geeks mentally battle it out by having excellent control over their mice and keyboards, physical sports are another level of wonder. I anticipate that people will live somewhat in awe of those who dedicate and push their physical bodies to the heights of human abilities for some time longer. It’s true that there is some overlap in the potential audiences of physical sports and eSports, but the world is certainly compatible with the existence of both. In the long run, physical sports will have to adapt to the changing technological world to stay relevant not only in competition with eSports but also other physical sports that make new ways of entertainment out of the new technologies.