(CNN)For some, this weekend’s shooting at an EA Madden tournament in Jacksonville was the first time eSports broke into the public light. In reality, the world of competitive video gaming is a fast-growing international phenomenon with millions of fans and billions of dollars up for grabs. Streaming services and live events have turned casual gamers into serious stars who can sometimes rake in seven-figure earnings and massive brand endorsements.
Don’t know what eSports are? Don’t worry! Watch this.
What is eSports?
eSports describes the world of competitive, organized video gaming. Competitors from different leagues or teams face off in the same games that are popular with at-home gamers: Fortnight, League of Legends, Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, Overwatch and Madden NFL, to name a few. These gamers are watched and followed by millions of fans all over the world, who attend live events or tune in on TV or online. Streaming services like Twitch allow viewers to watch as their favorite gamers play in real time, and this is typically where popular gamers build up their fandoms.
Who watches eSports?
Short answer? A lot of people. According to a report from Newzoo, a market analytics company, 380 million people worldwide will watch eSports this year, including 165 million eSports enthusiasts (a term that describes frequent viewers, as opposed to occasional viewers). The bulk of these enthusiasts watch from North America, China and South Korea.
According to research from Newzoo, 588 major esports events were held in 2017.
Who plays eSports?
As hard as it may be to imagine for devotees of traditional sports leagues like the NFL or the NBA; eSports, at its highest levels, functions in a similar way. In fact, this April, the NBA held a draft for the launch of its new eSports league centered around the basketball-themed NBA 2K game franchise. During the draft, 102 professional eSports players were selected, with all of the pomp and circumstance normally reserved for players on the court.
According to research from Newzoo, eSports revenue will reach $906 million worldwide in 2018. By 2019, that number is expected to surpass $1 billion.
That’s a lucrative market, not only for the players, but for brands and video game producers as well. Madden 19, the game featured at the tournament in Jacksonville, is part of the long-running EA Madden Franchise. Since its inception nearly 30 years ago, the EA Madden Franchise has sold more than 130 million units, totaling more than $4 billion in revenue.
eSports players, not unlike traditional athletes, can rake in big money: Tournaments can boast millions of dollars in prize money, which is typically split between the players on the winning teams. That means the world’s very tip-top players can easily earn seven figures in a year. Teams and event organizers also benefit from tickets sales for these competitions. That popular League of Legends tournament from 2017? It generated $5.5 million in ticket sales.
Players also earn money from sponsorships, endorsements and league salaries. To that end, Newzoo reports brands will invest $694 million in eSports ventures this year alone.
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