Esports Guide: What is it? Who plays it? Everything you need to know

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Ladbrokes looks at the world of Esports and what the future holds for the world’s newest sport.

Esports is one of the fastest growing forms of entertainment both in the UK and around the world. It has taken the pastime of playing video games and introduced them into a competitive environment.

The best gamers can now earn big money as professionals in huge multiplayer tournaments held around the globe. Real-time strategy games such as Call of Duty, League of Legends and Fortnite Battle Royale – as popularised by Dele Alli – are some of the most common titles associated with Esports.

Professional sports clubs and teams are getting in on the act too. Most Premier League clubs now have a professional Esports player, while the F1 Esports Series Final was recently screened live on Sky Sports.

What is Esports?

As we’ve already touched on, Esports revolves around professional gamers playing against each other in organised competitions. This is nothing new. Video game competitions have been going since the 1970s, with the earliest known tournament dating back to 1972.

But only recently have they developed into global tournaments with dedicated players and huge prize money. The mix of worldwide interconnectivity and huge gaming titles has created the perfect storm for Esports to thrive.

Esports went from having 10 tournaments in 2000 to around 260 in 2010. In 2017 this rose to 3765, according to esportsearnings.com.

International tournaments and organisation such as the Electronic Sports World Cup, the Major Gaming League and more recently the Electronic Sports League have helped improve growth further. But should Esports be considered an actual sport?

Although there’s no physical exertion, critics point to the planning, precision and skilful execution required to succeed in Esports. Is it really that much different to darts, snooker or pool? You decide.

Where is Esports played?

Esports is played anywhere and everywhere, although grand finals of tournaments are generally held in big arenas. The United States has the highest number of registered professional players.

According to Statistia.com, the US has over 9,500 registered professional players, putting it comfortably ahead of China on 2,685, South Korea on 2,579 and Germany on 2,479. Esports UK has some way to go to catch up.

The number of professional players isn’t necessarily an indicator of popularity, though. More telling is the number of people that stream Esports using platforms such as Twitch. 299 million viewers are expected to watch Esports this year, with estimates suggesting that 427 million people worldwide will be watching some form of Esports by 2019.

What are the major Esports tournaments?

Esports has plenty of international tournaments. But there are none bigger than the Defence of the Ancients 2 International. It has been running for eight years and will return in August 2019 with a total purse of $25,532,177.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Dota 2 Esports players make up the top 52 competitors in the world in terms of highest overall earnings. Kuro Takhasomi heads the list with over $4m won, ahead of Johan Sundstein and Amer Al-Barkawi in second and third. 65 players overall have earned over $1m, according to esportsearnings.com.

Team Liquid is the highest earning Esports team with over $24m to their name. Evil Geniuses are next best with over $20m from 742 different tournaments.

Outside of Dota, other big tournaments include Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends – which is the largest title in the world – Heroes of Storm and Call of Duty: Infinite War.

Established brands such as the Premier League and Formula One are getting in on the act too. Each has their own dedicated championship with players representing the corresponding teams from the real world of sport.

What does the future hold for Esports?

The future is bright. Esports has seen massive growth in terms of popularity, viewership and revenue in recent years. And it doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon.

Exhibit 1 Graphic https://www.keengamer.com/article/18394_the-future-of-esports

Traditional growth in terms of online tournaments and arena finales are good. But it’s advancements in technology such as Virtual Reality which make the future so exciting. Add it all into the melting pot and it’s no surprise that the most optimistic predictions for the future of Esports see it surpassing the popularity of real-life sports in the coming years.

There’s even talk of Esports being included as a new discipline in the 2024 Olympics to keep the games relevant to the younger generation.

How to bet on Esports?

Betting on Esports is simple. All you have to do is head over to our Sportsbook. There’s a dedicated tab with markets on all the big events from across the globe each day.

You can either bet outright on the winner of each match or delve deeper and check out some of the individual markets our traders have priced up. For a game like Counter Strike, this includes areas such as the Pistol Round Winner on each Map and the Correct Score.

Remember to keep an eye out for tournaments such as the FIFA eWorld Cup, too, which was won by 7/1 favourite Gorilla in 2017. There’s also the Overwatch League and the Call of Duty Championships, both of which are covered on our Sportsbook alongside all of the key global tournaments and finals.

How to get into Esports?

Gaming is popular because anyone can get involved. All it takes is a console, a controller and a link to the internet. To become an Esports player requires dedication, practice and exceptional quality.

Increasingly summer camps and regional clubs are being set up in order for players to improve. UK retailer GAME are also getting in on the act with several ‘Belong’ stores, which are effectively mini-gaming arenas across the country.

Alternatively, prospective players can join different gaming leagues or hone their skills in online tournaments. Some of these also carry cash prizes.

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Nick Murphy

Nick is a graduate of the UEA where he doubled up as the sports editor of the student newspaper. He supports Dagenham & Redbridge and previously edited the matchday programme at Victoria Road. Darts and Horse Racing are among his other favourite sports.