The rise of eSports has made waves internationally this year, with individual events offering over $30 million in prize money for the first time in 2019 and a new generation of stars emerging to capture the attention and adoration of audiences around the world.
Canada is one of many nations which has been impacted by the eSports craze, with its own set of renowned competitors and personalities emerging across a range of disciplines, from frenetic shooters like Fortnite to digital versions of more traditional games like Poker which appear on Casumo casino and other platforms.
For the uninitiated, eSports might seem like something of a baffling concept, but whatever your opinion or experience level, it is impossible to ignore its growing influence. To get you up to speed, here is a look at the way the Canadian scene has developed to date and how the country stacks up globally in terms of successes as well as adoption rates.
Growth & Audience Demographics
On paper, the enthusiasm for eSports in Canada is significantly lower than in other parts of the world, although it is always worth delving down into the statistics to get a fuller picture.
For example, a study from GlobalWebIndex published in 2019 suggests that just 7 per cent of Canadian web users have watched an eSports event or tournament of some kind within the last year. Meanwhile in China this sits at a much higher 40 per cent, with many other Asian countries such as Vietnam sitting in the double digits.
This may sound like a significant disparity, until you take into account that amongst male Canadians aged between 16 and 24, the regular watching of eSports events jumps up to a 28 per cent penetration rate.
This pastime still skews heavily towards males, both in terms of viewership and when it comes to the competitors taking part in the events. Even so, it is clear that as Generation Z emerges, with its millions of digital native consumers weaned on Twitch and YouTube rather than traditional broadcasting channels, eSports will become a much bigger deal in Canada across all demographics.
Events & Infrastructure
While streaming platforms allow Canadian eSports stars and personalities to broadcast to people in all parts of the country and the world, this is an industry that has only really managed to make itself a mainstream concern with the hosting of real world events. Turning videogames into a spectator sport that draws big crowds has taken decades, but it is now a relatively common occurrence.
While it is entirely possible for hulking convention centres to be taken over for the hosting of high profile eSports events, there are also smaller scale, city or region-specific venues emerging to fill a gap in the market and meet the growing demand for eSports-related spaces. At the moment Esports Central in Montreal is an excellent example of this, hosting tournaments that amateurs can participate in and helping to nurture a home-grown scene from which the eSports stars of tomorrow might be able to spring.
Even so, the infrastructure for eSports in Canada remains relatively nebulous at the moment and it is only the more densely populated areas which provide access to live events, which is ultimately true of many traditional sports.
While they may not be household names, especially amongst older generations, there are some Canadian eSports athletes who have managed to triumph at the highest levels in their chosen titles.
From quintuple CS:GO world championship winner Stephanie Harvey, aka missharvey, to Hearthstone ace Ryan Murphy-Root, aka Purple, a small but growing group of players are paving the way towards a bright future for eSports in Canada.