Gamers have always been at the forefront of new technological innovations and adoption. This comes as no surprise because many of the most popular fantasy games transport their players into new worlds full of mysterious technology, which often represent artistic visions of the future.
With game console ownership growing year on year and becoming more affordable, and an estimated 2.5 billion gamers worldwide, gaming has become part of many people’s daily lives, making up a large portion of their leisure and relaxation time.
However, for a growing number of die-hard gamers, video games are far more than just a way to unwind or have fun with friends. It’s their profession. There’s a new type of sport which is growing at an unprecedented rate, and this one isn’t played on a pitch.
Professional gaming tournaments, known as eSports, are taking the gaming industry and the world of traditional sports by storm. Popular gaming titles, such as ‘League of Legends’, ‘Counter-Strike’, and ‘Fortnite’, are now being competitively played by seriously hardcore pro-gamers, who aren’t interested in casual playing. They’re interested in winning, and the stakes are high.
Playing for Pay – The Rise of eSports Professional Gamers
eSports, short for ‘electronic sports’, is a fairly new industry, but it’s growing fast. This year, at its current pace of growth, eSports will become a $1 billion industry, and the number of fans tuning in to watch their favorite teams battle it out in the virtual world is expected to surpass that of traditional sports such as basketball. In fact, it’s predicted that by 2020, consumers will spend over $5 billion per year on eSports viewership, with most fans being affluent millennials who have the greatest affinity with the sport.
Likewise, professional eSports teams have some serious incentives to play hard and win big. Currently, the game which sits atop the throne for total prize money awarded is ‘Dota 2’, a multiplayer battle arena game which has awarded over $175 million in prize money, over a total of 1,066 tournaments.
As expected, just like physical sports, individual superstar gamers have also emerged. Sahil Arora, an American professional gamer, is reportedly the highest paid eSports star in the world. Through a series of online tournament wins in games such as Counter-Strike and Dota 2, Arora earns $2.7 million per year through sponsorship and tournament prize winnings.
But despite the monetary incentives involved in establishing a professional eSports team, the uptake hasn’t been as fast as expected. For League of Legends, one of the most played eSports titles worldwide, there are only around 100 teams that play professionally. While this may seem like a lot, soccer, the world’s most played physical sport, has over 300,000 established teams.
So, what are the reasons for this? Unlike physical sports, where talent scouts and team managers can connect with talented players and form teams in real life, professional gamers often play from their own homes, meeting only a handful of times per year at tournaments. Finding rising talent, and tracking their progress and skills, remains difficult.
Similarly, tools for eSports team managers are limited, and establishing and managing teams is time-consuming and expensive. Luckily, as gamers are early adopters of new technology, there are solutions emerging—such as blockchain—which could help eSports reach its full potential, and the gaming industry has been quick to utilize it.
How can Blockchain Help Grow eSports?
Distributed ledger technology creates a fair and transparent ecosystem for professional gamers, as well as the opportunity for easier discovery of teams and managers. Tournaments are usually only open to the top 3% of eSports gamers, with most of the rewards and prize money being distributed solely to these top players.
Instead, there are millions of gamers who could participate at a semi-professional or greater level, who currently lack the tools or exposure to participate in sponsored tournaments. eSports companies are already finding novel ways to use blockchain solutions for this exact problem.
For example, the ‘Bountie’ platform allows gamers of any skill level to use the blockchain to host their own tournaments for a game of their choice. Players using the Bounty platform can upload their profiles, rankings and gaming statistics to a decentralized database, to increase the likelihood of being approached by sponsors and managers.
Similarly, the DreamTeam eSports platform, launched by Alexander Kokhanovskyy in 2017, utilizes blockchain to enable professional gamers to find teams, grow their skills through AI learning, sign sponsorship contracts on the blockchain and receive prize money from tournaments. Likewise, their native DREAM token can now be used by gamers to pay for different services the DreamTeam platform is offering.
These blockchain based platforms would also benefit from the ‘trustless’ nature of blockchain, whereby eSports scores, rankings and statistics could be stored among all blockchain participants, resulting in a tamper-proof ledger of gamers’ data and progress. This feature would be particularly important for eSports managers looking to recruit players, as they could easily look up player records on the blockchain.
With over 2 billion gamers worldwide, integrated eSports blockchain solutions could well be blockchain’s ‘killer application’, the use case which catapults blockchain technology to widespread adoption.
Is the Future of eSports Decentralized?
With professional gaming growing, and the eSports industry becoming viewers’ sport of choice among millennials, there are huge opportunities for collaboration between blockchain and eSports. Gamers using decentralized platforms will find it easier than ever to locate professional teams to play with, and managers and sponsors will be able to locate the best players and offer them contracts via the blockchain.
For blockchain, access to the 2 billion strong gaming community, who have a strong track record of adopting new technology, could be a huge step towards mass adoption. If gamers are introduced to cryptocurrency through popular eSports platforms, they are far more likely to explore other blockchain solutions in the future, such as payments and finance.