What You Might Not Know About E-sports, a $620 Million Industry

What You Might Not Know About E-sports, a $620 Million Industry

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Powerful high-end computers at an e-sports cafe in Seoul, South Korea, cater to gamers. The esports industry has exploded in popularity.CreditCreditEd Jones/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A gunman opened fire on Sunday at a video game tournament in Florida, killing two people, wounding numerous others and killing himself.

The shooting, the start of which was streamed online, thrust a young, growing and often little understood industry, known as e-sports, into the national spotlight.

Here’s more about e-sports and how they’ve become so popular.

What are e-sports?

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Competitors at a cosplay contest in Birmingham, Britain, in May.CreditEd Sykes/Reuters

E-sports refers to the rapidly expanding world of competitive video games, encompassing a range of games and plots, played on a variety of platforms.

Competitions are often hosted in large venues, such as arenas, where audiences watch as professional players vie for supremacy. The players and the tournaments can be sponsored by major corporations, and the battles are often streamed live online with commentary.

Are they popular?

Spectators at the ESL One event in Cologne, Germany, in July, which drew 16 teams.CreditSascha Steinbach/EPA, via Shutterstock

Thanks to a confluence of factors, e-sports have exploded in popularity in recent years, with the total global audience expected to reach 380 million by the end of 2018, according to Newzoo, an Amsterdam-based research firm.

“It’s grown through a combination of expanded broadband, social networks, interesting games and personalities, more involvement from the publishers and also, increasingly, from sports and entertainment,” said Christopher Vollmer, global advisory leader for entertainment and media at PwC, the accounting firm formerly known as PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Online personalities have played a significant role in that expansion. In the United States and Britain, fans were about as likely to have been drawn to e-sports by online stars, such as those on YouTube, as they were by family and friends, according to a 2017 Nielsen report.

At the PUBG Global Invitational 2018, an e-sports tournament in Berlin in July in which 20 teams competed for $2 million in prizes.CreditFabrizio Bensch/Reuters

PwC expects the e-sports market to grow drastically, estimating that revenues will rise to $1.6 billion in 2020 from $620 million in 2017.

As the industry has grown, it has increasingly mirrored the legacy sports market, featuring slickly produced tournaments, high-value ticket sales, major corporate sponsors and extensive advertising.

The Ukrainian e-sports team Natus Vincere celebrates after winning at the ESL One competition.CreditSascha Steinbach/EPA, via Shutterstock

This year, the N.B.A. got involved in a significant way, creating a video game league with the large game developer Take-Two Interactive. The games are streamed to hundreds of thousands of fans on Twitch, the hugely popular streaming service bought by Amazon in 2014 for $1.1 billion.

The e-sports audience is disproportionately young and male, Mr. Vollmer said, but that may change as e-sports gain popularity. As the audience diversifies, advertising and sponsorship opportunities will most likely grow, he said.

What kinds of games are played?

Video game players at the Dreamhack Valencia e-sports fair in Valencia, Spain, in July.CreditManuel Bruque/EPA, via Shutterstock

Some of the most popular e-sports games include: League of Legends, a fantasy-inspired multiplayer battle game; Call of Duty, a series of military first-person shooting games; and Overwatch, a futuristic first-person shooter.

Activision Blizzard, the publisher of Call of Duty and Overwatch, has a market capitalization of $54 billion. In 2016, the company acquired Major League Gaming, an organizer of e-sports competitions.

“I have a simple vision for this,” Robert A. Kotick, the chief executive of Activision Blizzard, told The New York Times when the acquisition was made. “I want to build the ESPN of video games.”

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