According to experts, esports will double its current audience to as many as 600 million people by 2020. The competitive gaming industry is already attracting sell-out tournament audiences in real life venues, as well as millions more watching online.
In fact, one of the most-watched esports competitions, the League of Legends World Championship, not only has a prize pool of around $5 million, but it also attracts more viewers than the NBA or the World Series. A massive 43 million unique viewers tuned in to watch the 2016 finals.
How does esports reach the masses?
The biggest change has come from the mainstream nature of esports, in comparison to the way gaming was viewed only a decade or so ago. Once seen as a more geeky activity, the feeling around competitive gaming and online games in general has really changed. It’s become much more mainstream.
Firstly, the gender gap is now just an illusion, with reportedly 52% of gamers being female. As well as this, more than 1.2 billion people are playing games today, from Call of Duty to Candy Crush. Whether your game of choice is Agar.io or FIFA, gaming is no longer seen as something niche.
Another way that esports have taken off is with the help of streaming sites, bringing these kind of tournaments to crowds from all over the world, so that anyone with a browser can access them. Quick to follow, companies such as ESPN are helping to cover the tournaments and bring them to new audiences, and help grow the amount of people tuning in and getting involved.
What does this mean for gambling?
Esports has certainly made its mark in the gambling industry – this is evident by the number of websites that now offer esports betting apps. One thing that’s relevant in terms of gambling and esports is the concept of skins. Simply put, skins are used in certain games such as Valve-developed games like CSGO, and real money is used to purchase them, shown as items in the games.
From 2013, this is how they have successfully operated, making money from in-game purchases. As the Valve API is accessible to anyone, this has meant that other gambling sites have created somewhat of an underground economy, and skins are the currency of choice, allowing users to wager using them. In 2016 alone, apparently nearly $200m was wagered in skins.
This practice has led to underage gambling as well as problems with regulations being enforced, so Valve themselves have publicly spoken out against this type of wagering. And as time moves on, we imagine that the legal system will close down as many of these sites as they can.
This should open the space for legal cash gambling, which is rising exponentially even without the avenue of skin gambling being closed.
Verdict report that in 2016, $198m was wagered on esports; expected to rise to nearly $1bn by 2020.
Given the amount of games which are available, and how this vastly exceeds traditional sports, this might even be an underestimation in terms of the potential of esports to the gambling industry.
The future is certainly exciting, it’s just a question of whether the gambling industry can reach out and engage with the esports community in the correct way or not.
Article contains affiliate links
Image source: FreeImages.com/Maria Kaloudi