Sport has certainly changed throughout the years and technology has played a huge role in its progress. However, not many would have backed a completely technology-focused sport to propel itself into the mainstream with the likes of football, tennis and athletics.
Yet here we are in 2016 and competitive video gaming is as popular and lucrative as its long-established sporting counterparts. Professional gamers are even being likened to modern day athletes.
The competitive gaming scene, known as eSports, has and continues to grow at an impressive rate. According to industry intelligence firm, SuperData, the sport is already worth £529 million and is expecting to rise to £1.34 billion within the next two years. This growth would put eSports in the same sphere as Canadian Hockey (£1.38 billion) and worth nearly half the annual worldwide revenue of the Barclays Premier League (£3.3 billion).
These figures are staggering when you consider the humble beginnings of eSports. The first known eSports tournament took place at Stanford University in 1972. Competitors pit themselves against each other in a primitive video game called ‘Spacewar!’ to win a grand prize of a year’s subscription to Rolling Stone magazine. Fast-forward 45 years and a magazine subscription doesn't really compare with the enormous £12.6 million prize pool that was on offer at last year’s Dota 2 Championship.
eSports rapid rise to prominence over the past decade is mainly due to huge spike in the number of competitors and tournaments. For example, at the turn of the millennium there were just 10 worldwide tournaments, by 2010 this number has risen to 260.
The potential of eSports has also caught the attention of brands. £408 million was generated in sponsorships by the end of last year, that’s just 25% less than the sponsorship total of the NBA in 2015. Broadcasters even think it’s a big deal. Amazon acquired video game streaming platform Twitch.tv for £585 million in 2014 and the likes of ESPN and Sky have begun their own coverage of tournaments as well as gambling options with their betting outlets.