From its very beginnings to the billion-dollar industry it is today, eSports dominated the global market in the blink of an eye.
However, when we compare it to the rapid development of technology, this one isn’t a coincidence.
Also, we often tend to only look at the bright side. Once the success appears, we usually look back on the good leading to said success. However, behind each success story lies a background of struggle.
That’s precisely what the eSports industry, as well as eSports tournaments, have been going through for years now. Also, you might think that the beginnings of eSports tournaments are only a few years old.
But there’s a catch. Did you know that the first eSports tournament happened around half a century ago?
That’s right. The first eSports tournament happened back in the 70s, and barely anyone knows about it.
Here, we’ll introduce you to this story, alongside a few more. We’ll list seven facts you didn’t know about eSports tournaments and the competitive gaming scene.
So let’s jump right into the first one.
1. The First eSport-Like Tournament Was on October 19, 1972
The very first applications made solely for entertainment purposes date back to 1952. This was the initial era of technology development, and scientists and professors from universities started experimenting with unusual ideas.
One of these ideas belongs to the foundation of what we see as the gaming industry. In other words, the game XOX, also known as Tic-Tac-Toe, was born under the development of Cambridge Ph.D. student Alexander Shafto Douglas.
As the technology progressed each year, 1962 brought us the legendary game named “Spacewar!”.
Ten years after that event, a group of scientists from the Laboratory for Artificial Intelligence at Stanford University organized what’s known as the official eSport tournament in human history.
The event was called the Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics, and it didn’t look like the tournaments we see nowadays. Although it had the standard number of 24 players, pretty much everything was different.
The venue also wasn’t a public place or a popular location. Rather than that, the only venue where they could organize a tournament was at the university. This was a significant limitation, as only the research centers and similar high-tech institutions had the hardware for running games. And not to mention how robust those computers were.
And besides the ancient organization, the tournament still had a “prize pool.” Those players were competing with each other for a lucrative reward – an annual subscription to Rolling Stones magazine.
Fast forward a few decades, and in 2007 New York Times featured Spacewar! in the top ten list of the best computer games of all time.
Space Invaders Championship – The first eSports tournament with a notable popularity
Not too much time after the previously mentioned event, New York has seen the biggest eSports competition by far.
What happened in 1980 was an event like never before. It was a competition in the Space Invaders game, where over ten thousand participants compared their skills.
Participants were gathering from across the country with the unique goal of reaching the Superbowl Space Invaders Crown.
2. 1993 as the Year When LAN Party Was Born
In the 70s and 80s, gaming started to spread to the general public. Restaurants and commercial centers had arcade game platforms installed to attract new generations with this groundbreaking technology.
Also, that was the time when home gaming became a reality for many. Yet, due to the limited number of games, people got bored quickly. For instance, The Atari VCS, one of the first gaming consoles, had only ten games.
But as they had an external slot for game cartridges, programmers found out how to make something even more enjoyable. From that moment on, the gaming scene started exploding.
After a few decades of disruptive growth, in 1993, the game called Pathway to Darkness found a way to sneak onto the local computer connection, also known as LAN.
What’s more, LAN gaming boomed with the game Marathon in 1994 and Quake in 1996. These were the first titles that somewhat look like shooters nowadays. The basic mechanic elements remained the same, as well as the general idea of the graphics.
Also, Quake was the first gaming title to use 3D characters.
In the following years, we’ve seen a development and integration of what we know as the Internet and popular online and multiplayer gaming.
From today’s perspective, this was a genuinely revolutionary step, and everything afterward was just minor tweaks and slight improvements.
3. The View Count for Famous eSports Events Exceeds Hundreds of Millions of People
The most famous eSports tournaments are League of Legends’ world championships, also known as Worlds.
But did you know that their view count is greater than even the Super Bowl and NBA Finals?
According to Statista, a global data analysis platform, around 100 million viewers saw the 2019’s League of Legends world championship.
What’s more, the same event hit an amazing 44 million concurrent viewers at its peak point during the finals. We’re still not sure about the 2020s numbers, yet even more records may have been broken due to the global pandemic.
As the entire population focuses their free time on indoor and at-home activities, perhaps the numbers will rise.
Speaking of League of Legends, 2019 wasn’t like that by accident. We saw a similar scenario in 2018 as well, where they had 99.6 million unique viewers. Additionally, 2017 was just slightly below that, with 80 million views.
Besides LoL, in second place, there is Dota 2 with its prime tournament, The International.
And the third most popular eSports game is CS:GO. CS:GO’s top events for 2019 are IEM Katowice Major and StarLAdder Major Berlin, as both of these had around 50 million hours watched (according to the statistics at Esports charts).
Speaking of 2020, we’ve seen the rise of particular titles on Twitch. Some of them ended up on the top 10 list according to the total hours watched.
Some of these titles are 2020’s wonders Among Us and Valorant. Besides those and, of course, LoL, you’ll find Phasmophobia, FIFA 21, Fortnite, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, CS:GO, GTA 5 and Minecraft.
3. Gamers Are Treated as Pro Athletes Now
As far as the U.S. government is concerned, professional eSports players are getting the same treatment as athletes from football, basketball, cricket, and such.
When they are traveling around the country, they get special treatment without continuous verifications by the police, security officers, etc. The taxation rules apply the same whether you’re an LoL Mid player, a center in basketball, or a quarterback in American football.
And the best part? The majority of those players have the same work-life balance and living conditions as Olympic gold medalists.
Some teams and eSports organizations go as far as to devise a specific meal plan to their players. Also, part of their standard daily routine includes extensive gaming sessions in customized training centers. Most of the eSports teams live together, where they also practice.
eSports “Gyms” as a Key to Success
The latest news in the field of eSports training comes from Utrecht, Netherlands. As the majority of Team Liquid’s roster is based there, they opened a professional training center together with their partner Dell Technologies (Alienware).
Also, Alienware isn’t the only player included in the process. Some of the other sponsors are Monster Energy, SAP, Twitch, Marvel and HyperX.
According to the former COO of Team Liquid, Mike Milanov, their goal besides pro gaming is to create content related to healthy gaming and living with recipes from their kitchen, specific tips & tricks, and more.
Therefore, it’s clear as a bell that the era of irresponsible gaming is far beyond us. If one wants to become a pro, his lifestyle should follow accordingly.
So, next time your parents tell you to spend less time in front of the screen, say that you’re in the middle of a training process.
4. Dota 2 Officially Has the Most Profitable eSports Tournament
Once we look at the top list of the largest prize pools in the eSports field, all we see on the top 5 spots is The International.
The International is the biggest Dota 2 tournament and the only one organized and funded by Valve. In 2019 alone, the final prize pool exceeded an astonishing $34 million shared between 18 teams, in different ratios according to the team’s placements.
And just to prove the point, they aren’t on the top solely for that event. According to the data on eSports earnings, The International filled every spot in the top five list.
On the sixth and seventh place is the Fortnite World Cup 2019, with around $15 million each. Just as a reminder, even in 2015, the prize pool on The International was over $18 million.
Accordingly, as we look at the highest-paid players, we see mostly Dota 2 pro athletes.
In the first spot, there is Johan “N0tail” Sundstein, with total earnings of $6,944,322. Finnish player Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka, who earned $6,470,548, secured the second position. And the third one is Anathan “ana” Pham with $6,000,411.
Note: The statistic is from eSports Earnings, and the calculated amount comes only from the official eSports tournaments.
What’s more, the biggest share of their earnings comes from different partnerships, sponsorships, and the official salaries from their eSports organizations.
5. Famous Brands and Traditional Sports Organizations Are Buying eSports Rosters
The eSports industry isn’t attractive to computer hardware manufacturers and game developers only. As the competitive scene rises in popularity, many global brands and celebrity investors fund, support, and even buy eSports teams.
How the NBA Dipped its Toes in the eSports Waters
In the United States, numerous NBA teams took part in League of Legends. For example, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings and Cleveland Cavaliers have invested in several LoL teams from the LCS. Additionally, seven out of ten teams from the US LoL league are connected to the biggest basketball association.
The story of the legendary Team Liquid follows a similar scenario. Here we’ve seen cooperation between a few NBA and NHL teams, where their owners made an eSports investment company. That company is called Axiomatic and is the parent company of Team Liquid.
According to Jeff Vinik, co-chairman of Axiomatic and owner of Tampa Bay Lightings, their expertise from the professional sports and entertainment industry is applicable in eSports as well. As the eSports field is relatively new, successful moguls from sports and experienced entrepreneurs are crucial for its development phase.
Also, due to the proper synergy, they have a kickstart and a significant advantage over the teams with no professional experience in the field.
The Corporate World Turned Towards the Future of Gaming
According to confident predictions, eSports can grow into the premium league with powerful sponsorships and highly potent new partnerships.
For that reason, several corporate giants started gravitating towards eSports. Among the first ones are Red Bull and Coca Cola. Besides the grand sponsorships, they paired with some teams as official partners.
Additionally, the biggest single investment in eSports capped at $100 million for a renowned Polish team Virtus.Pro. Now the partner and co-owner of this team is the richest man in Russia, Alisher Usmanov.
These are not the only ones, as the computer hardware manufacturer ASUS plans to invest $16 million in the Chinese and Taiwanese scene. Their goal is to set up their prime eSports team, Rogue Warriors, and launch it to major competitions.
As ASUS doesn’t lack any resources, they have the opportunity to recruit the best players and coaches and become number one. However, as the scene is pretty developed in those regions, the road to success might be fierce.
What’s more, according to one Chinese eSports portal, Asus invested in more than 20 teams across Asia alone.
eSports and Celebrities
Besides being ridiculously popular, do you know what Jeniffer Lopez, Shaquille O’Neal, Ashton Kutcher, and Steve Aoki have in common?
They are all connected with the eSports industry.
Jennifer Lopez, for example, has been an essential part of NRG, a prominent eSports brand from California. Besides J.Lo, celebrities in the NRG funding program include Marshawn Lynch, Michael Strahan, Alex Rodriguez, and Shaquille O’Neal.
However, most of these aren’t really into eSports, and the only thing they’ve seen is a booming industry and an opportunity for profit.
However, not all celebrities share the same idea. For example, Ashton Kutcher is among the premium supporters of the eSports betting site Unikrn. Additionally, famous DJ Steve Aoki has bought the renowned team Rogue.
And besides their passive engagement with the industry, they’ve brought the needed popularity to the entire industry. Because of their well-established reputation, more and more corporations and individuals will cross their roads with eSports.
6. The First Official eSports Channels Are Born
Maybe the biggest sign that eSports is coming to popular culture is the presence and birth of eSports-oriented TV channels.
Ginx TV is what should be the first official international eSports channel. It’s present in 10 languages across 50 countries. Some estimations say that it’s in over 50 million homes around the globe.
The founder behind this channel is the same guy who created Extreme Sports Channel, Alistar Gosling.
Ginx TV initially launched its program in Romania in 2008. A few years afterward, they spread to Southeast Asia, East Africa and the rest of Europe.
The channel is a real goldmine for eSports enthusiasts, as it offers entertaining content 24/7. Over there, you can find everything from current trends, numerous Top 10 lists, game histories, personal stories and more.
Besides Ginx, many satellite and cable providers around the world offer local channels related to eSports.
7. eSports Has Become an Academic Program
A few years ago, the public was shocked by the number of management, business, entrepreneurship, and economics majors. History is keen on repeating itself, though, so we’re not surprised at all.
Today, you can enroll in an eSports-related degree program at more than ten universities. Also, the figures are on a constant rise, so don’t get surprised if, at the moment of reading this, you find 20, 30, or 50 eSports degree programs in this unexpected field.
Some of the colleges with eSports degree programs are:
- Becker College
- Shenandoah University
- Caldwell University
- Saint Peter’s University
- The Ohio State University
- Keuka College Keuka Park
- University of California Irvine
- George Mason University
- University of Texas at Arlington
- Lambton College
While in reality you won’t go there and play games all the time, it’s still fun for those interested in management and economics subjects.
Most of those will feature Esports Management majors and BS programs, with traditional face-to-face classes.
Students can learn how to utilize modern technologies and connect them with business. Therefore, subjects are related to digital marketing, web technologies, video and photo editing and social media.
On the other hand, there are standard economy and management subjects like microeconomics, macroeconomics, research methods, statistics, human resources, risk management, corporate finance, entrepreneurship, etc.
Bonus Fact: The Youngest Pro Player Started at Six Years of Age
Victor De Leon III, better known as “Lil Poison,” started his professional eSports career when he was only six years old.
The first game he played was NBA 2K on the ancient yet legendary Dreamcast Controller. He did this at the age of two.
Later on, as he progressed with more intermediate games, he started playing Halo. He hit the first tournament at the age of four. One year later, he took part in Major League Games.
To crown his fame, he signed his first professional contract with Major League Gaming and officially became the youngest pro player of all time.
Now you can find this achievement in the Guinness World Records book, which states that the youngest pro player was six years old.
According to the current trends, we’re just waiting for another kiddo to break this while being 5 or 4 years old.
The world of professional gaming has seen a massive rise in the past years. Just a couple of years ago, we didn’t know about professional eSports teams, eSports tournaments, and such. Not to mention advanced gaming academies, training facilities, and eSports university programs – those would have been close to fiction a few years back.
As rapid growth is under constant development, we’re still unsure what the future holds for us. However, one thing’s for sure. This addictive yet fun branch of the entertainment industry is going to conquer the younger generation in a way nobody can stop or control.
Is this necessarily a good/bad thing? We don’t think so.
Every generation has its perks and flaws – depending on your beliefs and points of view. Therefore, speaking of today’s scene, it’s true that the gaming industry has shaped societies and modified certain activities.
Yet, at the end of the day, we’re seeing an industry that people truly enjoy. Also, it serves as a great networking platform. People are brought closer to each other, regardless of their real, physical location.