How esports helped transform a humble hobby into a multi-million-dollar empire


Esports – Video games may seem like a relatively recent innovation in entertainment, but the earliest concepts actually date back to the 1940s, with a cathode ray amusement device filed for patent in 1947 by Thomas T Goldsmith Jr.

He may not have known it at the time, but Goldsmith’s concept would eventually evolve into a multi-million-dollar industry, enjoyed here in Montreal and all over the world. In the 80s and 90s the games industry hit the mainstream, with that growth continuing after the turn of the century.

In this article, we will examine how the concept of esports has helped underpin gaming’s biggest rise yet, from the eye-watering cash prize pots available to players to the equally lucrative sponsorship and broadcast deals being struck.

What is esports?

The term esports refers to the concept of sporting competition using video games. It attracts players from all over the world, including Canada’s Jason ‘Amaz’ Chan, Jason ‘WildTurtle’ Tran and Sasha ‘Scarlett’ Hostyn. Unsurprisingly, esports often engages players at a young age and some of the industry’s biggest stars are still teenagers. Like in any sport, not everybody makes it, but, for those that do, there’s an extremely lucrative career ahead.

The biggest available prize pool for an esports tournament is a whopping US$25m – about $35m Canadian – with sponsorship and broadcasting deals helping to make such eye-watering amounts possible and turning the most successful players into millionaires before they turn 21. Just like in many other sports, fans can bet on the outcomes of matches and esports betting markets are frequently updated ahead of events to help make the action even more exciting for those not taking part themselves.

The most popular esports games are League of Legends, Fortnite, Counter Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2, with shooting games and so-called ‘battle arena’ titles – where multiple players compete at the same time – proving the most popular. Players compete either in person at a physical esports arena, or online remotely, and it is perhaps the ability to compete in tournaments wherever you are in the world that has helped the industry become so successful in recent years.

What impact has it had?

Financial observers in Canada predict that esports will be the world’s next billion-dollar industry, with North America last year accounting for 37% of global esports revenue and media rights revenue in Canada alone projected to reach US$11m. The value of esports is also affecting the direction of the industry, with game developers now paying close attention to the competitive marketplace and seeking to create the next major title. Of course, to many, video gaming remains the same humble hobby it always was, offering a chance to unwind and escape the monotony of work. But for a growing number of people, the industry is now much, much more.

In Montreal, across Canada, and around the world esports is expected to continue its rise and increase its influence over pop culture. And whether you’re a competitive player or not, its impact will become more and more unavoidable.

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