eSports – Year in review

The year has passed by quickly and it is mandatory to a newspaper that wants to keep up with the likes of BuzzFeed and 9Gag to do a year in review. And what more appropriate of a topic for a school newspaper than the world of online gaming and eSports? For those of you that are well‑versed in the topic, eSports, also known as electronic sports, are professionally organized video game competitions that come in multiple variants, such as real‑time strategy (StarCraft), first‑person shooters (Call of Duty) and the most popular, multiplayer online battle arena (League of Legends, DotA). The competitions have become more popular over the years, attracting worldwide talent, more lucrative prizes, and a following rivaling other professional sporting events.

June 2014 – In an attempt to attract raw talent and to push themselves into the forefront of a growing sport, Robert Morris University became the first university in North America to offer gaming scholarships as well as adding eSports to their athletic programs and varsity lineup. The scholarships will cover up to 50% of a student’s tuition and residence fees. As of September 2014, the university has recruited students to compete in the Collegiate Star League, an intercollegiate league for North American colleges and universities with memberships including University of California Berkeley and University of Waterloo.

July 2014 – The International DotA 2 Championships are a yearly eSports tournament where teams compete against each other similar to the NBA playoffs. This year, the tournament was in its fourth iteration and was held in the Seattle Centre in Seattle, Washington. What made this year of The International famous was a prize pool of magnitude that has never been seen in eSports. The total value was just shy of $11 million, dwarfing previous eSports tournaments and even prize pools in other sports tournaments, such as the World Series of Poker. What makes the size of the prize pool amazing is that although the tournament was sponsored by Valve, the company that owns DotA 2, the prize pool was generated by the eSports fan base through crowdfunding.

July 2014 – With the fan base raising an $11 million dollar prize pool and sold out arenas for The International tournament, it was only natural that ESPN saw the business case and the dollars to stream the final rounds. With larger and larger groups of people enjoying eSports, more companies will follow suit and eSports will be brought into the mainstream.

August 2014 – With the recent overvaluations of the tech industry and stocks in general, the recent purchase of Twitch Interactive by Amazon for just a bit shy of $1 billion comes as no shock (okay…maybe just a bit). Twitch is a live streaming video platform where gamers can go to stream or view their favorite multiplayer or single player games. Despite the large value that Amazon put forward, the purchase has been considered a steal with the future of eSports growing.

October 2014 – eSports has finally entered the realm of the mainstream with the New York Times running a series of articles (including ones on the front‑page) about the eSports industry, including the games and the stars who make it up.

November 2014 – Many of us dream of retiring in our 50s with a mortgage‑free home, cottage and maybe a boat if things have been going well. Time to make light of your dreams. A Legends of Legends player by the name of CaoMei has retired from the game and moved into stream, where he plays the game live while commenting over top of it similar to PewDiePie of YouTube. He has landed a contract where he makes $800,000 a year to do this. In a reunion stream that he did with his old teammates, he pulled in a viewership of 6 million, more than many TV shows where time and money are put into its preparation.

December 2014 – Adult website enthusiasts: you’ll be surprised to know that YouPorn will be the official sponsor of a Spain‑based eSports team known as YP (Team YouPorn), formerly known as Play2Win. As eSports continue to grow with an enthusiastic fan base that even sold out the Staples Center in Los Angeles for the 2013 League of Legends finals, it is only natural that companies sponsor teams similar to NASCAR and the NBA. However, unlike other teams, YP will need to be subtle in advertising their sponsor to comply with competition rules that bar sponsorship agreements with companies in the pornographic industry.

Kirshan Kandiah