Since its debut in the 1980s, esports has drawn increasing numbers of players and spectators. In 1980, the first official esports tournament took place in Los Angeles, when 10,000 gamers faced off in Atari’s Space Invaders Championship. Today, millions of people around the globe watch esports games.
Modern technology allows gamers and streamers to play or watch from anywhere with an internet connection. With millions of viewers interested in watching the very best at their games, professional esports athletes — Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer Gustafsson, Ian “Crimsix” Porter, and others — draw huge crowds and sizable cash prizes. Members of teams like FaZe Clan, with more than 80 members and $10 million in tournament winnings, and Team Liquid, whose 60 members have won $38 million, have become celebrities in their own right.
The business of esports goes far beyond athletes. With professional gaming emerging as a thriving industry, opportunities in sales, marketing, analytics, and other business management areas mean there are many different ways to be involved.
Esports professionals — athletes and otherwise — are involved in many different types of esports.
What Are the Different Types of Esports?
Any game in which players virtually compete in an organized competition qualifies as an esport. As long as a metric for performance exists, virtually any game can be used. Esports athletes compete in activities either as individuals or as part of a team.
These are the main types of esports games used in tournaments:
Fighting games are one of the classic varieties of esports, with games such as Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II among the first major titles to receive national attention. In fighting games, two players compete against each other in combat using various kicks, punches, and special attacks. Some of today’s most popular fighting games include Mortal Kombat X, Super Smash Bros. Melee, and Street Fighter V.
Racing games put esports athletes in the driver’s seat, competing against one or more drivers at the same time. Racing games can be realistic simulations, arcade-style games that use unrealistic vehicles, or a combination of the two. Some of the popular titles in racing games include Mario Kart, Need for Speed, and iRacing.
Sports games are based on professional sports such as football, basketball, baseball, and soccer. Players compete against each other in their favorite sports in either a realistic or an arcade version of the game. The Madden football series remains one of the top games for esports competitors, with Madden Bowl 22 awarding $1 million in prizes.
Digital Card Games
Digital card games use a turn-based format in which players attack, cast spells, and perform other actions using cards. Hearthstone, which was originally released in 2014, remains one of the most popular digital card games in esports today.
Real-time strategy (RTS) games feature players competing simultaneously (as opposed to turn-based strategy in which the action stops after each player’s move). RTS games typically include four main elements: buildings, technology, resources, and units. Some popular RTS games are Age of Empires, Company of Heroes, and Total War.
First-person shooter (FPS) games are defined by a first-person point-of-view camera of the character being controlled. The character usually wields a firearm or other weapon of some type. FPS games can pit the player against other human players (player-versus-player [PVP] style) or against the game’s artificial intelligence (AI). Some popular FPS games are Halo, Call of Duty, and Team Fortress.
Third-person shooter (TPS) games use a camera angle that allows players to see their entire character, as opposed to just their weapon. One of the biggest TPS titles in esports is Fortnite Battle Royale.
Multiplayer Online Battle Arena
Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games pit two teams against each other in a predetermined area or battlefield. Each character has a set of abilities that they may improve upon as they progress through the battle and collect power-ups. Popular examples of MOBA games are League of Legends, Dota 2, and Battlerite.
How Are Esports Played?
People can play esports as an individuals or as a members of a team in tournament-style play. Tournaments can be held in person, with players connected via a local area network (LAN), or remotely, with players competing across high-speed internet connections.
Each tournament features different types of esports games, based on a game’s popularity and audience size. Tournaments have their own formats for seeding and elimination that include the following:
- Open/closed: Open tournaments are open to all comers, while closed tournaments are only open to winners of qualifying events.
- Double round-robin: Each tournament participant must play all other players twice.
- Single/double elimination: Single elimination means a player is eliminated after one loss; double elimination means each player has to lose twice to be eliminated.
- Swiss: The number of rounds depends on the number of sign-ups. Players are matched up against players with similar scores or skill levels.
Winners of these tournaments typically walk away with bragging rights, a trophy, and a large cash prize. For example, the annual prize pool money for Dota 2 is estimated to be around $47 million.
Esports as a Business
With advances in technology and increasing public interest, esports has become an industry along the lines of the NFL or NBA. Insider Intelligence forecasts there will be approximately 29.6 million esports viewers in 2022. That’s an 11.5% increase from 2021, and the trend is expected to continue.
Additionally, experts are projecting that esports will surpass $1 billion in global revenue for the first time in 2022. North America is expected to account for $300 million of that revenue.
Similar to professional athletes, esports teams are able to secure endorsement deals that increase their overall market value. According to Forbes, the top team in esports gaming in 2020 was valued at $410 million.
Considerable career opportunities are available — aside from participating as an athlete — for those interested in areas such as sales, marketing, and data analytics. Some popular positions are:
- Esports writer/blogger
- Social media manager
- Research analyst
- Business development professional
- Esports event coordinator
Pursue Your Passion in Sports Business Management
The popularity of esports is expected to keep rising. While the players may be the stars of the show, many young professionals are discovering that the gaming industry is ripe with opportunity in sales, management, marketing, and analytics.
If working in esports appeals to you, a positive first step is to invest in your education. Learn more about Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Rawlings Sport Business Management program, which can help equip you with the skills, knowledge, and industry insight for a career in esports. Courses in business communications, financial accounting, and principles of marketing, as well as other core courses, help students develop a solid business foundation, while courses in sport finance and sport business data analytics address the specific demands of sports and esports.
Begin your journey to a career in sports business management today with Maryville University.