Esports – Part 5/5
Details that may seem to be insignificant to a casual gamer, can have big implications on the viability of a game as an esport. Counter Strike is a game that is played between two teams, the Terrorists vs. the Counter- Terrorists. One team has to plant a bomb, the other has to defuse it. This can dissuade sponsors from investing, as well as make it less palatable to audiences from certain regions.
The developer (Valve) has been open to altering the game for different regions in the past. In Germany, which has strict laws relating to video games, at one point no one would ever die in Counter Strike. When shot, a player would bow down and surrender instead, with no blood included in the game. Despite the potentially inflammatory aspect of teams of Terrorists and Counter-Terrorists, CS:GO has shown to be one of the most popular esports titles globally, enjoying longevity of which other games should rightly be envious. Foley and Lardner’s survey of esports industry professionals showed that match fixing was an issue that most people think presents the greatest risk to the growth of esports.  This has been an issue in the past in some titles, most notably StarCraft 2 and CS:GO. It requires a concerted effort to prevent irreparable damage to esports titles.
Hosting events brings in considerations such as hospitality, physical security for players and staff and cyber security, particularly during the online stages of tournaments. These issues aren’t unique to esports, but as the industry is growing so fast, it needs to catch up with more traditional sports in this area. The recent shooting at a Madden NFL tournament in Florida is a tragic example of how tournament organisers need to take further measures to ensure player and viewer safety. 
It would be somewhat sacrilegious to write an article about esports without mentioning South Korea. ‘Professional Esports Player’ was ranked in the top 10 most popular future jobs for children in South Korea, in a survey from the education ministry.  Esports is truly a part of mainstream culture in South Korea, and has been so for decades. This is evidenced by the formation of the Korean e-Sports Association (KeSPA) by the governmental Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in the year 2000. Indeed, much of esports’ global success is owed in some part to its widespread adoption in the Southern Republic.
The rise of esports in South Korea is often attributed to the country’s response to the Asian financial crisis in the 90’s.  In a bid to get the population working in different industries, the South Korean government invested heavily in it’s internet infrastructure, giving the country some of the fastest internet speeds in the world. The growth of esports was a serendipitous offshoot of the new broadband that was available in the region.
In stark contrast to their neighbours in the south, the Chinese government has traditionally held a hostile stance to video gaming in general, banning console games in the year 2000, a ban which was only lifted in 2014.  However, the country has recently embraced computer gaming. China accounted for 16% of the estimated $660 million global esports market in 2017, and is now contributing half of the global games market value.  Chinese esports finds its roots, like so many other countries, in the early Starcraft and Counter Strike scenes.
Esports is well established in Europe and North America, but isn’t as big in other parts of the world, such as the Middle East. There certainly is an appetite in the Middle East, the shared game revenue was $3 billion for 2017.  But to put this in perspective, in the USA alone it was $30 billion during this period.  Amer ‘Miracle’ Al-Barkawi is one of esports’ highest paid players (in terms of prize money) and hails from Jordan. He currently plays DOTA 2 for Team Liquid, and has earned $3.67 million dollars in prize money, at the age of 21.  Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE all have big gaming communities for the region, giving the Middle East potential as a growing market for esports.
Central and South America is dominated by Portuguese and Spanish speakers, with the two biggest esports titles being League of Legends and CS:GO. The majority of esports viewers in this region are from Brazil and Mexico. Some teams, such as Made in Brazil (MIBR) have moved their teams in to North America, and participate in predominantly North American leagues, in order to be more competitive. There is more money in the North, as the revenue per fan sits at $9.70, compared to $1 per fan in South America. 
There are notable omissions from this article, as I have tried to balance the two extremes of brevity vs protraction. In truth, this article could have been twice as long. Other aspects to look at would be an in depth review of specific players or teams, memorable moments and milestones, tournament organisers as well as a plethora of other games competing to be heard in the noisy esports landscape.
My intention when writing this series was to give a basic understanding of what esports is, with some context illuminating how it has gotten to be so big globally and how it is being funded. Hopefully you can now define what esports is, know where to watch it, and are aware of the kind of content that you can expect. All that’s left is the fun part, time to start watching.
28. FOLEY & LARDNER LLP, ‘2018 Esports Survey Report’, Page 6, 24 July 2018 https://www.foley.com/files/uploads/2018-Esports-Survey-Report.pdf
29. BBC NEWS, ‘Florida shooting: Video gamer kills two at tournament’, BBC, 27 August 2018. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-45315970
30. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ‘South Korea’s obsession with esports has turned it into a video gaming power’, Tech2 21 July 2018. https://www.firstpost.com/tech/gaming/south-koreas-obsession-with-esports-has-turned-it-into-a-video-gaming-power-4789851.html
31. GAETANO PRESTIA, ‘eSports in South Korea: Why is it so popular?’ Esport Bet, 23 January 2017. https://esportbet.com/why-south-korea-treats-players-like-celebrities/
32. TIM CHEN, ‘China has finally lifted its 14-year ban on video games’, Business Insider, July 28 2015. https://uk.businessinsider.com/china-lifts-14-year-ban-on-gaming-consoles-2015-7
33. ELAINE RAMIREZ, ‘China’s $32.5B Gaming Market Is Driving Mobile Esports To New Heights’, Forbes, May 16 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/elaineramirez/2018/05/16/chinas-32-5b-gaming-market-is-driving-mobile-esports-to-new-heights/#4f8bb9f86362
34. AURANGZEB A. DURRANI, ‘The Middle East is fertile ground for esports’, VentureBeat, April 21 2018. https://venturebeat.com/2018/04/21/the-middle-east-is-fertile-ground-for-esports/
35. MEDIAKIX TEAM, ‘Twitch Vs. Youtube: Behind Youtbe’s plan to win over Twitch influencers’, Mediakix, March 22 2018. https://mediakix.com/2018/03/twitch-vs-youtube-influencers-live-streaming-gaming/#gs.lw36XWo
36. E-SPORTS EARNINGS, ‘Amer ‘Miracle’ Al-Barkawi’ 23 September 2018. https://www.esportsearnings.com/players/14671-miracle-amer-al-barkawi
37. Newzoo, ‘Key Insights into Esports in the Americas’, Newzoo, March 7 2018. https://www.slideshare.net/Newzoo/key-insights-into-esports-in-the-americas