In a somewhat unsurprising turn of events for gamers, experts on traditional sports continue to insist that E-Sports remain an arena that won’t gain as much credibility as their more athletic counterparts. HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel ran an episode revolving around the League of Legends championship, the single biggest event in eSports this 2013. With more than 20 million people tuning in to catch it online, and the entirety of the LA Staples Center filled to capacity, the border between traditional and digital sports should have been cleaved in twain.
Unfortunately, according to a panel of big name people whose cumulative exposure to eSports might amount to less than a day, it’s just another game that nerds band together to enjoy before heading down to a Star Trek convention. At this point, we’re not entirely sure whether to laugh, roll our eyes, or just walk away and chalk it up to the baby boomer generation just not getting it. Again.
With tickets averaging at $70 each and with the Staples Center having a total seating capacity of 18,118, the finals alone drew up to 1,268,260 USD in ticket sales alone. For an activity with little mainstream media attention, it would be ridiculous to just outright dismiss e-sports as a viable business with appeal that stretches beyond the archetypical “nerd”. It’s an industry that is seeking to monetize itself rapidly and the potential for growth and financial success isn’t just a pipe dream.
But yet again, for some talking heads, eSports is something made only for the guys who flunked Physical Education, are asthmatic, wear glasses, or any other sort of combination thereof that clearly marks them as the target market. Let’s ignore the fact that Gordon Hayward, a player with the Utah Jazz since 2010, is an active gamer, and has been part of the IGN pro league as a LoL and SC2 player.
The same way that a traditional sport has their share of unathletic fans, the opposite also holds true with eSports. The fastest way for the industry to become legitimately recognized by a wider range of people is for it to ramp up their monetization is to create a sports betting environment that they can capitalize on. Industry giant Betfair has managed to bring sports that wouldn’t normally have large an audience outside of the UK, like cricket, and rugby. The same could be applied not just for League of Legends, but for all kinds of e-sports moving forward.
There are a lot of hurdles until both industries stand side by side, but a smaller fan base is definitely not one of these things.