The rise of eSports has made gaming aspirational, turning bedroom hobbies into lucrative careers. Potential earnings from prize money can rise to millions, and professional players gain the chance to represent their country in front of a stadium full of fans, bringing the digital sporting world in line with traditional sports like football and rugby.
Many gamers spent the extra hours in lockdown playing and streaming gameplay alongside friends and fans, resulting in stronger relationships being built among the community. As a result, the eSports industry is actively growing, with new investments and talent. eSports is transforming the world in many ways.
It’s clear to see that eSports is not just changing the face of gaming but also sport as we know it. With the eSports global revenue projected to reach £1.1 billion by 2021, many are set to capitalise and get in on the action. Thailand, which boasts one of the oldest eSports organisations, announced in September 2021 that eSports would be recognised as a professional sport, meaning players and organisations can now receive support from the Sports Authority of Thailand. The worldwide popularity of eSports is growing day by day, with 28% of eSports fans thinking it should be an Olympic sport at Paris 2024. It really is propelling gaming further into the mainstream.
Many sports professionals are getting in on the action, with Formula 1 drivers Romain Grosjean and Lando Norris launching their own eSports teams. Norris’ new venture was accelerated during the first lockdown when his Twitch streaming followers grew from 185,000 to 600,000, Norris found the right market for his passion project. The Quadrant team was born and now competes in a variety of events across the whole eSports sector.
Gaming is no longer just seen as a method of entertainment but a way to build social skills and collaborate. Online gaming communities grew during 2020, so it’s clear that many are forming strong bonds with people they meet in online play. 39% of fans admitted to spending more money on gaming during lockdown and 21% pledging to spend more as we return to ‘normal life’, but is this now the new normal?
The eSports sector is growing at such a rate that youngsters are looking for the best way to follow their passion. BenjyFishy, the most successful Fortnite pro at 17, left school at 15 to take gaming full time, which worked out well, as three weeks later he generated £50,000 in prize money after qualifying for the Fortnite World Cup.
With so much money at stake, the training is like that of a traditional athlete, and for many professionals, using multifunctional training facilities is the daily norm. EVOS Esports has recently announced the launch of its new dedicated training facilities in a commitment to strengthen the eSports industry in Southeast Asia.
In the UK, Newcastle College launched its interactive eSports programme for students, with Level 2 and 3 BTEC qualifications now available in partnership with the Newcastle United Foundation. The programme incorporates a mix of aspects from the whole eSports industry and even has top-ranking UK FIFA player Jake ‘PlanetToast’ Simpson, who represents Newcastle United in the official ePremier League, as a consultant and speaker. The course was launched in response to the growing games and tech sector and emerging job opportunities in the North East. Developing and aligning the curriculum to local employment need is something that was highlighted as a significant strength in the Newcastle College Ofsted report in 2018.
Principal Scott Bullock said: “We are thrilled to offer qualifications in an exciting new area and hopefully help to enhance the booming tech sector here in the North East, something that is an integral part of our Strategy to 2030 and our focus on providing new opportunities within STEM.
“eSports education offers a new and innovative qualification for young people to learn and develop their creativity, knowledge, and transferable skills to prepare for their own journey into a new type of career and enjoy opportunities to join a thriving games sector.
“Investment into new curriculum and aligning our offer to emerging skills needs and employment opportunities form a focal part of the college’s mission to develop a skilled and talented workforce.”
As times continue to change, technology continues to evolve around us, merging virtual and physical life together. Will online gaming become as mainstream as watching the Champions League Final?