Electronic Sports, or e-sports, is a growing industry that deserves to be recognized just like any other sport. What defines a sport? Oxford Dictionary defines a sport as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or a team competes against another or others for entertainment.” E-sports meet every criteria in that definition.
For starters, e-sports is extremely competitive and has a huge fanbase, like any major sport. While the market for e-sports may be in its infant stage here in the United States, e-sports are huge in East Asia, specifically South Korea and Japan. The expansion to the West has taken the U.S. by storm and is growing at an exponential rate. While markets like the NFL have started to plateau due to their inability to expand outside the United States, e-sports have been able to grow globally and touch amateur and competitive markets alike.
E-sports also include competition against other teams for entertainment. Games like “Fortnite,” “League of Legends,” and “Call of Duty” all have competitions where individuals or teams compete for large audiences. Sound familiar? That’s because it is reflective of what society has deemed a standard “sport.” To some audiences, watching the Fornite championships is the same as watching the Super Bowl: high stakes, favorite players/teams, and nail-biting play from the best at their sport.
Mainstream sports are shown on cable television or streaming services tailored towards the consumption of sports. E-sports, despite a breakout presence on ESPN, are still mainly streamed online. Websites like YouTube and Twitch have become mainstays in the consumption of video games. Whether it be livestreams showing ameatur play on Twitch to post commentaries uploaded to YouTube, these forms of media get massive amounts of views.
Compared to professional sports, e-sports players do not get paid nearly as much, but that may be changing. Extremely popular “Fortnite” player Ninja was estimated by Business Insider to make $500,000 a month streaming himself playing on Twitch and YouTube. That is $6 million per year. In comparison, the median annual salary for NFL players is about $860,000 while the median NBA salary is around $3 million per year. Understanding that the largest salaries in these two respective sports swamp Ninja’s salary, it is still impressive to see e-sports players even remotely close to those of established sports.
The next step for e-sports to gain the respect and notoriety they deserve is for the establishment of leagues and the mass marketing of the brand to new markets like the U.S. The game “Overwatch” already has an established league with teams based all over the world. If other games were to pick up this format, their expansion would be imminent due to the exposure in new locations. Playing an e-sport competitively takes skill, time, practice, and commitment, just like any “regular” sport, and these factors alone should justify its inclusion into the sports category.