In 2019, 98.2 million viewers tuned in to watch the Superbowl, hailing the event as the “most viewed broadcast in America.” In recent years, a new player has emerged – eSports – bringing in more than 100 million unique visitors to its 2019 League of Legends championship. With breakthroughs in technology, and widespread spectatorship, eSports are only getting bigger.
In 1988, UC Berkley undergraduate students created Netrek, the first team-based internet game attracting 5,000 players a day. With on-demand competition, hardware improvements, and faster connectivity, online gaming has exploded since then.
eSports, a form of competitive online gaming, includes popular titles like FIFA, NBA 2K, Dota 2, Fortnite, and Call of Duty. This new gaming model allows amateurs and professionals from all around the world to compete against one another, under a tournament structure and win cash prizes.
Competitive video gaming now represents a fast-growing international industry with millions of fans, billions of dollars, and endless potential. The live event streaming services are transforming everyday gamers into legitimate stars who can earn revenue.
The current popularity of the industry is partially due to easily-accessible streaming services, like Twitch and YouTube, which allow viewers to watch popular gamers in real time. Like sports fans religiously following their favorite teams, eSport gamers are enthralled by the strategy, finesse, and gameplay.
The increase in casual viewership is likely due to increased awareness about eSports, internet availability, and relatability to viewers. Because the events are more accessible to the public, it’s easier for fans to engage with athletes.
Now, a number of platforms even allow amateur gamers to be personally trained by professional gamers. As viewership surges, marketers will continue to funnel money into the industry. Predictions indicate that by 2022 the annual growth rate will be ~15%, with a total audience of over 600 million.
Despite the rapid rise in popularity, building the eSports industry took time and effort. Although eSports’ fandom has quickly multiplied, the technology to support the phenomenon has been in the works for decades.
In the early days of computing, the central processing unit (CPU) was the only hardware component that would render images. As more graphics-intensive games were designed, their demands put a strain on the CPU, degrading performance. Graphics processing units (GPUs) offloaded those tasks from CPUs, freeing up processing power. 25 years ago, these GPUs were packed with one million transistors. Today, a typical graphics card can have 14 billion transistors, making gaming a smoother experience.
Improved internet speed has also been a key to the success of online gaming. Ten years ago, the average bandwidth was approximately 3 megabits per second. In 2020, average internet speed has increased to 116 megabits per second. In this environment, processing power and download speed can be the difference between winning and losing.
The future for eSports is incredibly bright. As hardware and connectivity continue to improve, the potential for innovation is limitless. Grab your computer, grab a snack, and get in the game!
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