For the past quarter of a century or so, the concept of eSports has grown from humble beginnings to become the world’s latest major sports phenomenon. When you look at the size of the industry today, it’s hard to believe that the earliest large-scale competitive gaming event took place less than thirty years ago.
Back then, competitive gaming events were few and far between, but they still managed to attract thousands of participants to sprawling event spaces in order to pit their high scores against one another on iconic arcade games like Space Invaders and Donkey Kong. Around that same time, Walter Day was busy setting up Twin Galaxies, an organisation that promoted competitive gaming and worked in conjunction with the Guinness Book of World Records to keep tabs on the very best players from around the globe and, of course, their high scores. In turn, this lend to the creation of American TV show Starcade, on which contestants would try to beat each other’s records on a particular arcade game, plus we even started to see eSports segments used a plot device in major motion pictures like Tron.
Looking back, it really was a taster of things to come and set a foundation for further evolution throughout the 1990s, when home video game consoles started to replace arcade halls as the prime choice of gaming entertainment. Then, around the turn of the millennium, the internet changed everything.
The Rise of the Internet… and iGaming
Advances in technology, particularly broadband, meant that more people could enjoy faster and more convenient internet connections than ever before. And, naturally, with this newfound power at its disposal, the world started gaming on a whole new scale.
It wasn’t long before we saw the birth of iGaming, a brand new industry that sought to emulate the thrill of the casino floor for a growing online audience. By 2010, the entire iGaming market was worth approximately $22 billion and had diversified to include a wide range of casino games and a multitude of online sports bookmakers. Both new and established iGaming businesses alike found themselves in constant competition for their own slice of their market, seeking new ways to engage players and differentiate their service from the rest of the pack – which now includes offering betting options on eSports events.
But that’s not all. Industry competition has led to remarkable innovations in a relatively short time, with perhaps the latest being the integration of live streaming technology. Operators like 32Red live casino have set a template by investing heavily in their provision of high-quality video streams, whereby players can log in to their account and watch a live link to a real table with a real dealer.
Compared with standard, computer-generated gameplay, you have to say the 32Red approach offers a much more engaging experience for the casual gamer, which is why newer sites such as 188Bet and Jackpot 247 have quickly followed suit and developed their own suite of live dealer games. For all brands, it’s becoming less of an option and more of a necessity to stay at the forefront of the industry.
Live Streaming for eSports
The same concept of live streaming technology, which was originally focussed on online poker rooms, blackjack and other casino games, is now being applied to eSports events. This allows fans to log in, place a bet and gain access to a live stream of the event itself to watch the action unfold as it happens. In fact, this is often the most stable and secure way of actually being able to watch a live eSports event.
But what games are actually available to bet on? As with iGaming, the range of the eSports industry has continued to expand at a rapid pace in recent years, and we’re at the point now where almost all multiplayer gaming tastes are catered for. From sports titles like Madden and Fifa to battle arena games like World of Warcraft and Counter-Strike, more and more recognized tournaments are emerging that allow players to compete against one another for big money prizes. Last year’s Dota International Championship, for example, offered a total prize pool of $20 million, which should give a better feel for the type of scale we’re dealing with here.
For the players, competing at the highest level involves meticulous training, precise timing, and skillful execution under pressure. For die-hard fans, the fact that the evolution of iGaming services has led many bookmakers to host a dedicated eSports section on their website certainly adds an extra layer of appeal. The ability to place an occasional bet on the outcome of important tournaments and individual matches as they take place offers a much more engaging experience for eSports fans.
And, given the rate at which the eSports industry is expanding, we wouldn’t be at all surprised if more iGaming operators started to sit up and take notice of the opportunity to cover this lucrative new realm, sooner rather than later.