The eSports industry has suffered from slow adoption by the average person. Despite efforts to push it into the mainstream, eSports has faced challenges with the public perception of video gaming and its apparent disconnect from athletics. Until very recently, gaming was stigmatized by many as a pointless hobby, one that detracted from other areas of the player’s life. Moreover, the blame for any number of society’s issues often fell at the feet of the video gaming industry.
This perception is changing, and changing rapidly. Unique gaming systems like Nintendo’s Wii and the suddenly booming mobile gaming market are expanding the player base and seizing credibility for the industry as a whole. In South Korea, eSports took an early hold on their culture – and is now seen as on par with many traditional sports. This lack of stigma allowed South Korea to produce some of the world’s greatest gamers, and the country still competes at a level beyond any other. The Western world is making a new push with ventures like Blizzard’s Overwatch League, and the numbers are promising. The first night of Overwatch League games outperformed the NFL Livestream considerably.
A Brief History of eSports
eSports is by no means a new industry. While video gaming is still seen as a relatively new phenomenon, it is now in its fifth decade of operations. The first gaming tournament was held over 40 years ago in 1972, and regular tournaments for high profile games began in the 1980s. These early competitions were rarely high profile in nature; they existed more so as local events.
This changed in the early 1990s, with the introduction of Nintendo’s marketing bonanza. Their sponsoring of the Nintendo World Championship was one of the first nationwide gaming competitions. Arcade proliferation led to the creation of the EVO Fighting Game championships in the later 90s. Greater adoption of the Internet brought the first eSports teams into existence for games like Counterstrike and Quake. Blizzard’s Starcraft real time strategy game became the absolute gold standard for gaming competitions throughout the 2000s.
Now, we are seeing the third generation of eSports as a multi-billion dollar enterprise. Riot’s League of Legends and Blizzard’s Overwatch both host several different levels of competitions similar to the minor and major leagues of traditional sports. Gamers can, for the first time, compete for a livable salary and a place on a real team. The Overwatch League is the first eSports organization to franchise teams directly to cities – and the tactic seems to be working. Fans are flocking to the league in droves to support their local teams, sporting jerseys of their favorite players.
A Problem that Still Faces eSports
While eSports has a clearly bright future, there is still an infrastructure problem. Up until this point, gamers hoping to earn a place on a professional team have had to support themselves from the very start. Precious time is spent on unrelated jobs and self-promotion. There is no varsity equivalent for eSports, no large player pool to draw talent from. In order to create a healthy ecosystem that allows talent to rise to the forefront and gain notice by professional organizations, there must be a direct path from the amateur level. Blockchain start-up DreamTeam thinks they may have just the solution for this problem.
DreamTeam have created a platform that provides full vertical integration of all aspects of eSports team management. Players can register for the site and create a profile that is linked to their statistics from Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) and League of Legends (LoL) with more to come. Players can then band together into teams, or be headhunted directly by organizations looking for new talent. Coaches and support personnel can offer their services directly on the platform, incorporating all aspects of team creation.
On the backend, DreamTeam have integrated blockchain technology to guarantee one of the most important aspects of fostering new players – reliable payment. Without a salary, players are dependent on outside work to make ends meet. The platform’s smart contract-enabled blockchain allows funds to be held in verifiable escrow before being paid out at regular intervals. Prior issues with tournament non-payment are thus completely mitigated by using DreamTeam’s system. Those wishing to hold a competition with the platform’s talent must put the money up first, which is then distributed by a smart contract as well. Since the entire system is automatic, there is no third party concern or counterparty risk. The system is inherently trustless and ensures that players are treated fairly.
The Rise of eSports
There is little doubt that eSports will continue to grow in the coming years. As the third generation of gamers reaches adulthood, we are seeing the negative perception of gaming slip away. High-performing gamers will no longer have to be visionaries – the path to professional gaming has been forged by pioneering gamers before them. Now, they can concentrate on the game itself.
Perhaps more importantly, viewers and fans can now find gaming competitions much more easily. The days of finding a grainy stream of South Korean eSports tournaments are long over – Overwatch Contenders is available on satellite television. While the eSports industry will likely never replace that of traditional sports, it has more than earned a place at the table.