Timeline of the Development of Global Esports Industry.
Esports, according to Wikipedia, is a form of competitive sports using video games; that often takes the form of organized, multiplayer video game competitions particularly between professional players. It can then be deduced to basically mean the application of competition and structure to the participation of sporting events in computer video games.
There are still no clear distinction between real sports and esports; the latter is also run like other professional league games with teams, sponsors, commentators and broadcast contracts. The only real difference is that sports is done in real time while esports is done digitally. Few countries like South Korea, China, Italy and Denmark now recognize e-sports as sports.
Electronic sports is said to have started in October 1972, when Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab (Los Altos, California) hosted the first-ever competitive video game event. Today, esports has grown from being a relatively interesting hobby of the young and adolescent to a global multibillion-dollar entertainment industry in its own right.
The industry has come a long way and is growing at a rapid pace. In 2021, it was reported that 474 million people watched esports worldwide and that its global revenue will reach $1.6 billion by 2024.
Below is a reported timeline of the esports till date.
- 1972: The “Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics” is hosted by Stanford University. The winner received a one-year subscription of Rolling Stone magazine and title of “Intergalactic Spacewar Champion” for 1972.
- 1980: The first large-scale video game tournament, with 10,000 participants in attendance, was held in New York by Atari, marking the entrance of competitive gaming into the mainstream (“History of Esports,” n.d.).
- 1982: The show Starcade, an esports program, makes its debut on television. 133 episodes are aired from 1982 to 1984.
- 1988: The modern era of online gaming is birthed with the first team-based internet game, Netrek.
- 1990: The 1990 Nintendo World Championships. After touring the United States, this tournament has its grand finale at Universal Studios Hollywood (California).
- 1993: Netrek is attracting record numbers of up to 5,000 players daily.
- 1994: Nintendo PowerFest ’94”, the Nintendo 2nd World Championship for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System is held in San Diego, California.
- 1997: Red Annihilation Tournament, the first global esports event, has a grand prize of a 1987 Ferrari 328 GTS belonging to the lead developer of the game.
- 1997: The Cyberathlete Professional League is born. The CPL tournament follows in 1998 with $15,000 prize money.
- 2005: The CPL World Tour, a year-long international competition, spanning nine countries on four continents, has a total prize pool of $1,000,000.
- 2005: The creation of YouTube as a video-sharing platform gives millions of ordinary people the ability to easily share and watch videos online. YouTube’s dedicated gaming service YouTube Gaming accelerates the esports revolution.
- 2011: Twitch enters as a dedicated video-game live-streaming platform, including broadcasts of esports competitions. Before its acquisition by Amazon (2014), it had received 45 million unique viewers and ranked 4th in peak Internet traffic in the USA, after Netflix, Apple and Google.
- 2012 – 2016: The video gaming market is recognized as the fastest-growing entertainment industry in the world, with sustained year-on-year growth of 6% in 2012 (Lee – & Tzialli, n.d.).
- 2014: 45,000 in-person attendees at Sangam Stadium (Seoul) for the League of Legends World Final and over 27 million watching online.
- 2016: TBS and ESPN start to invest in esports leagues, as well as broadcasting competitions.
- 2016: The first franchised league, the Overwatch League, by Blizzard Entertainment, starts, initially with twelve teams and twenty currently.
- 2016: From meager rewards players earned initially, prizes reach jaw-dropping amounts: Dota2 (US $86 million) and League of Legends ($30 million). In 2018, The International broke the record with a $25 million prize pool for a single tournament.
- 2017: The number of esports viewers tripled from around 100 million (2012) to over 300 million (2017) (“The Rise of Esports,” 2018).
- 2017: The League of Legends World Final in Beijing was viewed by 60 million people.
- 2018: The NBA, in partnership with Take-Two Interactive, creates NBA 2K League, the first esports league run by a professional sports league.
- 2018: Revenue from the global esports industry hits $905 million and is expected to exceed $1 billion in two years. Over 50% of revenue to come from China and North America (“The explosive growth of Esports,” n.d.).
- 2018: In 2018, the highest-earning esports teams receive $23,987,734.23 (Team Liquid), $20,696,040.79 (Evil Geniuses), and $17,562,308.50 (Team OG).
- 2019: Gamers across the world expected to spend $152.1 billion on games in 2019, (“The Global Games Market Will Generate $152.1 Billion in 2019 as the U.S. Overtakes China as the Biggest Market | Newzoo,” n.d.).
- 2019: Esports’ highest-earning player, Kuro Takhamosi, has earned $4,097,926.95 to date.
- 2022: Esports billed to be included as a medal event in the Asian Games.
- 2024: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is considering a decision to include Esports as a demonstration sports.