While football is probably safe with its ability to consistently put up viewership of over 100 million people every Super Bowl just about every other “major” American sport may have some more competition soon. eSports, electronic-sports, is a rising phenomenon around the world and has seen a recent high spike in popularity within the US.
For those who do not know, eSports is the term used to describe professional video gaming competitions.
Regardless of whether people think of it as a “sport” or not; it’s events are already extremely popular in Asia and Europe and it has demonstrated the ability to pull in massive viewership.
For example, this year’s game five of the World Series pulled in 17.2 million viewers and has been on the decline in viewership year-over-year since around the 1980’s.
Meanwhile, the NBA Finals this year had its highest viewership since 1998, when Michael Jordan played, with 19.9 million viewers.
These sound like amazing numbers, but when they are compared to the top eSports competitions they lose a lot of that impressiveness.
League of Legends is the most played game in the world and it has a very competitive eSports scene with some very passionate fans.
Last year, the 2015 League of Legends championship match had 36 million people worldwide tune in to watch the event.
This means that it had about the same viewership as the World Series and the NBA finals combined.
It’s ridiculous to think about. How could a video game get as many views as a real sporting event?
Well, many eSports fans think of it as very similar to a “real sporting event”. And in a lot of ways it is really similar.
These video game competitions often get played in major entertainment or sporting arenas.
Last year the North American finals for League of Legends took place at Madison Square Garden.
This year the 2016 League of Legends World Championship finals are scheduled to take place at the Staples Center, home of the Lakers.
Fans actually pack these stadiums as well in hopes of seeing their favorite players on their favorite team in the competition.
And these events also always have announcers, like sportscasters, with them as well. They have analysts there who talk about the games in real-time just like a normal sporting event would.
These similarities have made many take these events more seriously and have led to a large fan base that follows the professional gaming scene in depth.
It has only gotten more popular over recent years.
A recent national study showed that 70% of people between the ages of 8 to 64 years old play some type of game.
Of that percentage, 18% said that they watched an eSports event online or attended one in person. In contrast, only 9% reported the same thing in 2013, meaning that these events have a huge growth rate at the current time.