Once the province of the lone gamer’s bedroom, online gaming is hitting the big time on the world stage. But this isn’t news to the initiated, for whom electronic sports have been a world class sport for many years.
South Korea, considered the home of electronic sports and competitive gaming has been packing out football stadiums and other such venues for years. Last year the host to FIFA’s 2002 World Cup semi-final, Seoul’s Sangam Stadium, packed an incredible 40,000 gaming fans into its seats. With an estimated 205 million viewers and prize purses ranging into the millions the sport’s popularity and meteoric rise shows no sign of waning anytime soon.
So much so that electronic sports are even beginning to become subject to the same regulations as the rest of the sporting world, perhaps providing those involved with the validation that the rest of the world is finally beginning to recognize competitive gaming as a genuine sport. Amid allegations of a doping scandal earlier this year, when a competitive gamer admitted to taking the drug Adderall, one of the sport’s leading leagues the Electronic Sports League (ESL) announced plans to partner with the World Anti-Doping Agency and Germany's anti-doping agency to develop a policy and introduce testing at its tournaments.
Although, it’s no surprise that these regulations are being introduced when you take into account the prize purses that are up for grabs, now ranging into six figure sums American colleges are even getting in on the action. Once the provinces of basketball, football and track & field certain colleges have begun offering athletic scholarships for competitive gamers and the opportunity to pay their tuition fees with their gaming skills.
It’s not just educational institutions getting in on the action, now the big businesses usually associated with mainstream sports are showing an interest. Electronic sports is a new betting market at Betway.com, providing fans of competitive gaming the opportunity to place money on the outcome of tournaments and their favorite competitive gamers. But it doesn’t stop there, only a matter of days after DraftKings announced they’d be entering the arena, rival site FanDuel also announced their intention to throw their hat into the ring with the statement that they’ll be developing a "one of its kind daily fantasy product specifically for Esports." The fantasy sites which normally deal with providing a fantasy league service for football, basketball and baseball have obviously spotted the lucrative potential of competitive gaming.
As have the BBC, who earlier this month announced their intention to air electronic sports tournament League of Legends live from Wembley. The League of Legends, one of the biggest of its kind, is set to air its tournament on BBC 3 using the same digital platform as big events such as Glastonbury or the Olympic Games. Providing perhaps the final credence necessary to fans of the sport that electronic sports are not only here to stay, but are gaining mainstream appeal and recognition on a massive scale.