Go geeks, go

The competitive video gaming industry, or eSports, is becoming big business, with its own big stars.

To explain plummeting NFL ratings, commentators have blamed factors such as changes in the TV industry, shifts in viewing formats or the absence of big-name stars. They have overlooked one competitor, reports the MIT Technology Review: eSports.

The competitive video gaming industry, or eSports, is becoming big business. According to Technavio, its players rake in big salaries, practise eight hours a day and many are becoming celebrities. The most popular games are multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBA), such as League of Legends and Dota 2 or tactical first-person shooter games such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

On Amazon’s streaming Twitch platform, eSports accounted for 21.3% of all hours viewed in the last two quarters of 2015, for a total of 475.5 million hours. And according to Fortune, hefty prize money from sponsors such as Vodafone, MasterCard and Coca-Cola is helping to attract ever-larger viewing crowds.

Global revenue, according to a Newzoo market report, stood at US$325 million in 2015 – a sum that is expected to rise to US$463 million in 2016 and to US$1 billion by 2019. “Though the viewership of the Super Bowl is expected to surpass more than 100 million viewers in the coming years,” says Technavio, “the global viewership for eSports will likely top even that, to exceed mainstream sports in the next four years.”

It should come as no surprise that professional sports teams are acquiring competitive video game squads, notes the MIT Technology Review. The Philadelphia 76ers acquired a controlling stake in two eSport teams in September, who play League of Legends and Overwatch, giving them access to the 76ers’ nutritionists, psychologists and trainers. And the University of California, Irvine, now boasts an eSport scholarship and dedicated gaming arena.