Video games have been around for nearly half a century. Gaming has been a hobby for millions of people around the world for decades, but the gaming industry today is more popular and global than it has ever been. It has evolved incredibly over the last few decades, with video games going from being just a pastime activity to becoming an outright job and investment opportunity. This is largely due to the rapid rise of eSports and gaming tournaments.
Video games have been around since the 70s, but the modern scenery couldn’t be more different from what it was during the early days. Technology and the emergence of the internet have transformed them from the old-school graphics to the HD virtual representation we enjoy today. The team behind NJ Games created the infographic below depicting the rise of esports. It shows that the enterprise is currently one of the most financially lucrative entertainment sectors in the world. So, how has the gaming gone from a hobby to a multi-million dollar industry?
Origin of eSports
The very first eSports tournament was held in 1980, when Atari organized The Space Invaders championship which attracted more than 10,000 participants. The competition garnered widespread media attention due to Space Invader's popularity at the time. Several video game companies were launched during this period, with Twin Galaxies being the most popular. It played a significant role in the evolution of gaming as it was launching and promoting several game titles, as well as publicizing high scores through the media.
The 90s saw the dawn of the internet. It connected gamers through the web and made possible online gaming. Competitive gaming really kicked off in the 90s, with PC and Nintendo being the most significant game developers. In 1997, the Red Annihilation tournament was organized where gamers competed on the first person shooter game “Quake,” with the winner driving off in a Ferrari. It is regarded as one of the most important early eSports tournaments, which drew about 2,000 participants. The 90s also saw the release of the famous title StarCraft. It was hugely successful and got two sequels. Counter-Strike arrived in 1999 and quickly became one of the most popular titles in eSports history.
2000 – Present
The early 2000s saw the popularity of competitive gaming spread to places like India and the Philippines. The World Cyber Games and Electronic Sports World Cup were both launched in 2000, with Major League Gaming coming a couple of years later. It would go on to become the most successful league in the history of eSports. The release of Halo 2 was the modern day game changer for eSports, becoming the first game to be broadcast on TV for Major League Gaming.
In 2012, Dreamhack teamed up with MLG and Electronic Sports League to promote eSports in North America and Europe. Their joint campaigns played a significant part in the rise of eSports over the last 5-7 years. Releases of the hit titles like League of Legends and Dota 2 also played a part in spreading the popularity of eSports in the US, with the latter becoming the highest earning title of all time.
The campaign by Dreamhack, MLG, and Electronic Sports deserve a lot of credits for the popularity of eSports in recent years. The International Dota Championships and the money prize involved also turned attention to the gaming industry. The industry made more money than the film industry in 2018, and with the number of tournaments and gamers increasing at a rapid rate, it is only going to continue growing.