Which sport makes people millions when they play video games? And which sport recently awarded a 16-year old boy with $3 million in prize money? The answer to both questions is esports. For better or worse, this new industry is changing how we view the sports industry as a whole.
What are esports and who competes?
Like traditional sports, esports are the professional, competitive version of a game. So, if you and some friends play basketball at the park, you’d be playing basketball, but you wouldn’t be playing in the NBA. The same logic applies to esport games like Fortnite, Call of Duty, and League of Legends.
If you and some friends play Fortnite together, you’re not competing in an esport. However, people who do play Fortnite competitively, like Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf or Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, are indeed competing in an esport.
The biggest way esports is changing how we all view the sports industry is through its use of social media. Most esports are broadcasted on platforms like Twitch or YouTube. Anyone can visit those sites and watch those esports live for free — and that means that a lot of people can watch esports.
Because Twitch and YouTube are social media platforms, viewers can interact through chat rooms while the games take place. Imagine a Super Bowl viewing party of 500,000 people, and they’re all trying to talk at the same time. That’s what it’s like to watch a live esport on Twitch.
Since most esport athletes are young, their social media skills are far better than many traditional athletes. Whether it’s via Twitter or Facebook, esport athletes often communicate with fans through social media, which broadens their appeal and popularity.
Esports are also changing how fans engage with sports. People love highlights, and like The Next Web explains, in esports, it’s common for highlights to appear on social media right after they happen. Most traditional sports refuse to do this. In fact, they’ll crack down on people posting highlights on social media.
Not that long ago, the NBA started allowing highlights on social media, and it’s worked wonders. Those NBA clips have been viewed and shared millions of times. People who weren’t into the NBA saw clips and became interested in basketball. As a result, the league has grown in every metric, from viewership figures to in-person attendance records. It’s clear that by following the social media strategy of esports, the NBA has found success.
The change in fan engagement echoes how they want to watch sports, too. People are canceling cable subscriptions and signing up for streaming services like Netflix. And fans don’t want to get cable and then have to buy a sports package just to watch sports.
Fans want to watch live games either cheaply or for free — and without a cable company involved. Again, the NBA is spearheading this evolution by introducing the NBA League Pass, which is like Netflix but for basketball. The NBA League Pass has been a great success, especially with new and younger fans. Other sports are exploring things like this too — and they were all inspired by esports.