Esports – Part 1/5
Or esports, it’s a common noun now.
The spelling might look jarring with a lack of capitalisation on the S, but according to the Associated Press, that is the correct spelling. The temptation is to spell it with medial capitals, capitalising the S, this is wrong. 
Nitpicking aside, what is esports? At its base, Competitive Gaming, that’s it. It’s not scary. Esports finds itself as Goldman Sachs’ Ryan Nolan puts it, in the favourable position “at the convergence of media and technology.”  Performed online or physically ‘on LAN’, it consists of professional teams or individuals competing in a video game for money.
“the convergence of media and technology.”
It will be useful to know what LAN is in this context. When players play physically in the same place such as in an arena, it’s called playing on LAN. Quite literally, on a Local Area Network. This is important, as when they play online, ping is a consideration, which is the time it takes for packets to be sent to a server and back. When there is no latency, there is no excuse, if you win on LAN, it is legitimate.
In this series I intend to outline some of the fundamental aspects of esports. It is aimed at a reader with very little to no knowledge of esports whatsoever. I hope to arm you with the basics of this new(-ish, global esports tournaments have been happening since the late 1990’s/early 2000’s) and exciting phenomenon. I feel that it is appropriate to qualify the following with the fact that I am in no capacity an esports player, nor do I even work in the industry, just an avid fan.
Here are some of the major titles in esports both currently and historically. I’ll break them down by genre.
Real-Time Strategy (RTS) – StarCraft 2. One of the godfathers of esports, first released in 1998. Some of the earliest popular esports competitions were for Starcraft. The game was particularly popular in South Korea, with the country accounting for half of the game’s sales at one point. Spectating two professional players can seem frantic if you don’t know what is going on, as they can complete hundreds of actions per minute. That’s a lot of clicking. Starcraft has been dwindling in popularity in recent years, at least in terms of the global esports scene.
Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) – Heroes Of The Storm, League Of Legends, Defence of the Ancients 2 (More commonly referred to as DOTA or DOTA 2), SMITE. This genre has enjoyed some of the largest viewerships in recent memory. League of Legends regularly brings in hundreds of thousands of viewers on Twitch.tv for their online league, the LCS, with a prodigious following in China. DOTA 2’s largest international tournament has a prize pool totalling tens of millions of dollars, we’ll get in to that a bit later.
First Person Shooter (FPS) – Counter Strike:Global Offensive (CS:GO), Overwatch. My personal favourite, CS:GO is the 3rd iteration of a game that debuted in the year 2000. Along with Starcraft, Counter Strike is responsible for some of the earliest esports tournaments, paving the way for many other titles. Overwatch is games developer Blizzard’s cross platform FPS, with a new franchised league, simply called the Overwatch League (OWL). At this point you might be noticing the gaming community’s fondness for acronyms.
Battle Royale – Fortnite, Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). The new genre that is ‘disrupting’ (sigh) the industry, this genre has gone viral recently, attracting hundreds of thousands of viewers on streaming platforms, seemingly overnight. Newer games on the esports scene, the main challenge for Battle Royale games is finding ways to convert a game with up to 100 players at a time, in to a spectator sport.
Trading Card Game (TCG) – Hearthstone. The 4th entry on this list by games developer Blizzard, this collectible card game brings in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue every year for the company. Drawing a lot of inspiration from physical trading card games, such as Magic the Gathering, Hearthstone lends itself to esports with its easy to learn, difficult to master gameplay.
Video games are made by games developers, who exert varying levels of control on their product. Blizzard, for example, have made a franchised league for their FPS game Overwatch, imaginatively called The Overwatch League, which is tightly regulated. Valve, on the other hand, are more laissez-faire with CS:GO, taking a hands off approach and allowing 3rd parties to run leagues and tournaments. Valve only tends to get involved should something happen which may affect the overall integrity of their game, and to sponsor an event, ‘The Major’, twice a year.
Many of these multi-billion dollar developers also choose to publish their game, that is to market and distribute it. In certain cases, a developer may partner up with a separate publisher. For example, PUBG Corporation has partnered with Microsoft as a publisher to distribute their game on the XBOX console. Partnering with a separate publisher can add the funds and expertise necessary to develop and distribute a game across various platforms.
Blizzard – developer of many of esports most popular titles, including Hearthstone, Overwatch and Starcraft.
Valve – alongside developing two of esports most established titles, Counter Strike:Global Offensive and DOTA 2, Valve also owns Steam, the largest digital distribution platform for PC games. At the time of writing, these two games have paid out a total of over $225 million in prize pools. 
Epic Games – struck gold with Fortnite, which along with the world’s most popular streamer ‘Ninja’, has been breaking records on streaming platform Twitch recently. Epic Games also develops the ‘Unreal Engine’, a game development suite.
Riot Games – Developer of League of Legends and owner of their own esports league, the LCS (LoL Championship Series). The world finals in 2017 drew 106 million concurrent viewers, 98% of these viewers were from the Chinese stream. 
Hi-Rez Studios – Developer of Smite and Realm Royale, a new entry to the Battle Royale genre.
Tencent – One of the worlds largest Video Games holding companies, Tencent Games has a majority stake in Riot Games, as well as minority stakes in Epic Games, Activision Blizzard, Paradox Interactive, Ubisoft, as well as many others.
Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of this 5 part series…
1. KIERAN DARCY, ‘Why the Associated Press Stylebook went with esports, not eSports’, ESPN, 6 July 2017. http://www.espn.co.uk/esports/story/_/id/19860473/why-associated-press-stylebook-went-esports-not-esports
2. The Rise of Digital Gaming with Goldman Sachs’ Ryan Nolan, 2017 [online video].
Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8IoyRNP_5s
3. E-SPORTS EARNINGS, ‘Top Games Awarding Prize Money’. https://www.esportsearnings.com/games
4. ESM.ONE, ‘2017 World Championship’, ECS.