The History of eSports

eSports may be pretty new but everything has a history right?!  eSports has never been in the spotlight more, mostly because  of the The Covid-19 pandemic.  The current global health scare has resulted in most of the world’s population being housebound in various forms of lockdown and, with the 2020 sporting calendar decimated, the focus is now on eSports to fill that void and step further into the mainstream.

Were going to take a look at where the concept came from and the evolution of eSports.

Photo Credit – Flickr

What is eSport

eSport is a sports competition using video games and competitions happen between individual players and teams.  eSport basically turns playing video games into a sport and each game can in a round about way be classed as a different sport, so eSport players  effectively specialise in one game.

Broadcast rights and sponsorship in eSports

How it all started

According to gaming historians, the first eSports event took place on October 19th, 1972 in Stanford University, California. Students competed against each other playing the sci-fi rocket combat game, Spacewar, and the winner got a year long subscription to the Rolling Stones magazine. There’s a certain beautiful romance to this and it’s not surprising it took place in Palo Alto, one of the principal cities of what is now known as Silicon Valley.

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In 1983 the U.S. National Video Game Team was started and was involved in competitions, such as running the Video Game Masters Tournament, the big games at the time were  Pac-Man and Donkey Kong 

Televised eSports events aired during this period included the American show Starcade which ran from 1982–1984 airing a total of 133 episodes, the show revolved around on contestants trying to beat each other’s high scores on an arcade game.  Then in 1988 Netrek arrived, it was an internet game for up to 16 players, Netrek was one of the first Internet game to use metaservers and was credited by Wired Magazine as “the first online sports game”.

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Games like Street Fighter II in the 90’s were key to the growth of the eSport concept, it kicked off the era of of direct, tournament-level, fave to face competition between two players.  Before this video games and winners where decided upon the highest score scores.  One of the big reasons for people watching eSports is the social interaction between other players, this and spectator interaction is a big factor when it comes to traditional sports as well as eSports.

eSports tournaments took off in the 1990s with the the 1990 Nintendo World Championships, touring across the United States, its final was held at Universal Studios Hollywood.  Nintendo followed this up with a 2nd World Championships in 1994 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

This followed with television shows featuring eSports,  shows like  included the British shows GamesMaster and Bad Influence, the Australian game show A*mazing, and the Canadian game show Video & Arcade Top 10 help it become more mainstream.

Internet speeds and connectivity would be the next big driver in the 1990’s and big games games such as  the Counter-Strike series, Quake series, and Warcraft where launched.

The growth of betting in eSports

2000 – Now

As we can see above competitions between video game player have been going on for years but after 2000, these started becoming more organised, international tournaments such as the World Cyber Games and the Electronic Sports World Cup were launched, followed by the Major League Gaming (MLG) in 2002, which is still the current largest eSports league today.

South Korea would be a big driver going forward with television coverage running 24 hours covering StarCraft and Warcraft III competitions on cable TV game channels.

By the 2010s, eSports was a significant factor in the video game industry, with many game developers actively designing and providing funding for tournaments and other events.  The rest is pretty much new history, eSports is now a billion dollar a year industry, probably thee fastest growing sport in the world and with eSports players earning millions there is no stopping it.

The 10 highest earning eSports players

Is eSport a sport?!

The legitimacy of eSports as a true sporting competition remains a constant argument but as time passes it’s being accepted and has even been featured alongside traditional sports in some multinational events in Asia.  The IOC (International Olympic Committee) has even discussed their inclusion of eSport into future Olympic events!

The biggest eSport events in 2020


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