In 2016, a small game released by developer Valve, the more mainstream market of consumers, would not have heard of before. Defense of the Ancients 2, more commonly known as Dota 2, handed out prizes equated to $95 million dollars in 2016. This is not revenue. It is simply money awarded to players for winning or placing in tournaments. Their largest tournament, The International, hosts 80 players, all from different regions of the globe, leaning towards their early 20s, all competing for the largest prize pool known to e-sports history. $20,770,460. The reason for that abnormally high total is the equally as abnormal fanatics of the game. They purchase certain items or bundles for the actual game and all the work the developers put in gets rewarded in excellent matchups. Money makes the world go ‘round. That’s a simple fact. If there’s money to made by companies, advertisers, players, organizations, whoever, you can bet they will have a toe in that water.
When the Cubs won the World Series (Wow, it’s weird we get to say that now) each player got an average $1.004 million bonus for that win. That’s a $25.1 million-dollar prize for a 25-person team (Although I’m not sure how they exactly divvy up the money, either by equality or merit). When TI6: Wings Gaming won the International 2016 Dota 2 tournament, they won $9.1 million from that prize pool. For each player of the five man team, that was a payday around $1.82 million dollars (Again not sure how Wings Gaming divvies it up.) Yes, the difference between the two prizes is only a few decimal places worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, but this was the biggest stage for both competitive sports. The International and the World Series paid their winners on roughly the same scale individually. These playoffs are in many ways, parallel to each other. These sports are entirely comparable. And yes, the word sports should be applied here.
E-Sports in general is becoming less and less of a foreign concept and is starting to hit us personally, in our homes, our computers, and in our stadiums. Although its still coming out of its infancy… Mark Cuban famously told Fusion.net,
“Right now, it’s a gold rush to buy and sell and build teams. That’s creating a confused market. But more importantly, I’m worried about how quickly players burn out. It’s a grind to keep up and to become great. Particularly at (League of Legends). I know teams are trying to do more, but the number of hours involved is a real concern for me. I’m not closing the door, but it’s not something I would pursue right now.”
Magic Johnson and another group of former NBA players apparently did not take heed to that. They bought stakes in game developer Riot’s League of Legends North American League Championship Series team, Immortals, just last year. Rick Fox, a former Laker great, also bought, and still owns, a League of Legends team, named after himself of course, in Echo Fox. Shaq, Alex Rodriguez, Jimmy Rollins, all own stakes too and reportedly these ex-players are enjoying the newfound success in a different market, away from play and broadcasting of a physical sport. They are excited and enthusiastic at the thought of nurturing a new level of competition that’s not just the best in the States, but one of the best in the world. Also it helps that in 2016, E-sports generated $493 million dollars in revenue, many saying it may break the $1 billion mark with the next two to three years. No wonder another Dallas celebrity, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wants to get in on this.
Yet, I’m sure if you follow ESPN or Yahoo! on Twitter you’ll see various people discrediting and dismissing the prospect of e-sports as legitimate entertainment options alongside physical sports. “E-sports is not sports. Stay in your lane. Report what’s in your lane,” is just a taste of what I see on social media. Of course you get that with posts about soccer and hockey. People will always be quick to disparage what they don’t agree with or what they don’t know about. But if we keep an open mind on both sides of the table, it’ll be a great and an extremely entertaining enterprise. When there’s money to go around people will be hard-pressed to question its legitimacy or question the money it brings in.
Stay tuned for more pieces on E-Sports, streaming platforms, and the upcoming baseball season.