Chapter 7
Good Luck Having Fun: The Rise of Esports

The beginning of esports is less well agreed‐upon than the proper casing (to be clear, it is “esports,” lowercase) but not quite as contentious as the debate around whether it is a sport. Some have argued that the origination date is closer to 1942, when pinball machines with flippers (i.e., human skill) were introduced.1 While we'll rely on the more conventionally accepted start at the 1972 Spacewars! tournament at Stanford University, this still represents a considerable span of time for the development of a phenomenon that most view as only recently emergent. Like many new forms of media, extreme levels of hype were soon to follow—depending on the headlines one reads or the pundits one believes, you're equally likely to evaluate esports as the biggest opportunity in business, or mere puffery. As with so many things, the truth is somewhere in between, and more structured views of its evolution are the first necessary steps towards a more informed, and less hyperbolic, view.

Much like our foray into the history of gaming, our purpose here is not an exhaustive history so much as identifying the pivotal and business‐critical moments that propelled the phenomenon of esports towards the wider cultural acceptance it enjoys today. Along the way, our focus will be less an exhaustive accounting of every pivotal business deal, team, or personality, so much as extracting broader meaning applicable to how one should view and integrate with this space, in addition to lessons for the business world beyond esports. What follows is what some might consider a surprisingly complex history that paints a picture of old media formats (such as broadcast TV) struggling to capture the inherently interactive mediums such as gaming, and an industry that has only truly found footing in the era of networked game play and user‐generated content.

Not entirely unlike gaming, the rise of esports is a story of balancing economic realities against formalizing an audience, though the journey here is on a different trajectory from that of gaming more generally. From its roots in more traditional gaming formats, esports as an industry has spent less time on how to appeal to the masses (e.g., through casual gaming) so much as massifying what is, at this time, a more narrowly defined yet incredibly fragmented fan base. Esports came to prominence with the ubiquity of user‐generated content—not just as a better distribution channel for the official matches, but as a means through which the entities in the space found economic and business models that allowed for stability outside of tournament winnings, and a means to unite a fandom across dozens of different games, tournaments, and leagues.

If the rise of gaming was about finding ways to weave it into the lives of everyone, the rise of esports is about how modern forms of entertainment find footing and legitimacy outside the bounds of legacy media. Gaming and esports as marketing opportunities have quickly gained the attention of business decision makers in recent years not simply because of their relative “newness” (as indeed, both have been around for quite some time), but the ways in which they've become entrenched and part of the everyday media ecosystem of an emerging cohort of household decision makers. Understanding esports is less about coming to terms with why someone might enjoy watching a video game being played, so much as a lens through which one can understand the future of professionalized competition.

In this respect, understanding the cultural and technological roots of the current state of esports is a filter to separate the considerable hype surrounding the industry from fact. Misunderstandings and misevaluations (positive or negative) as they pertain to esports often come from a position devoid of knowledge around the grassroots history and early struggles of this industry. This is understandable to some extent, as despite all the enthusiasm around esports today, it is an industry that largely developed below the radar of popular culture and media for decades.

This leaves quite a bit of unfamiliar ground to cover. To make the task at hand a bit more manageable, not entirely unlike the previously described history of gaming, we'll segment this history into a series of chronological eras. Each era is divided not by fixed intervals of time so much as by moments in the history of the medium that signal larger shifts within the industry. For the sake of simplicity, we'll largely focus on the Western esports scene with occasional trips overseas to Korea:

  • The Novelty Era (~1972–1996): The period through which the first legitimate esports competitions were structured, resulting in an assemblage of more or less regulated competitions around various platforms, often utilized principally as a form of marketing for the core games, which can be credited with socializing video games in popular culture from a frivolous novelty towards a more serious competitive endeavor.
  • The Online Era (~1997–2008): Esports truly found a footing with the proliferation of the consumer internet, though seemingly lost its way (and nearly everything) after a sojourn to Hollywood for the brief renaissance of esports on linear TV. We'll make our first stop in Korea here, to get a sense of a society where esports were more fully embraced by popular culture. From rapid growth to full‐industry crash, this period represents one where lessons of how outside businesses and structures can influence esports in equally negative and positive ways were hard‐learned.
  • The Networked Era (2009–2015): Esports found a home in a truly global and digital‐native world. With the launch of Twitch in 2011, the media of esports found a medium across which it could proliferate at a rate, scale, and format that legacy media distributions could not afford. The heavy influence of the esports community comes back to light during this time, where game modders set the foundation for one of the most influential genres in esports.
  • The Content Era (2016–Now): The foundation of major governing league structures attempted to craft more points of comparison between traditional sports and esports. In tandem with this development, individual actors and organizations across these structured lines of competitive play are shifting towards the business of lifestyle content creation as a major form of commercialization. Between these two forces is a proliferation of corporate alliances where legitimization of esports by “blue chip” brands is increasingly being traded for the attention and relevance of audiences that are difficult to reach by more traditional means.

Each of these eras can be understood as a set of particular moments defined by the overlapping influence of the cultural relevance of gaming (increasingly across the years), the commercialization structures that esports relied upon (diversifying and differentiating across the years), and the mediums through which the media is consumed (becoming more specialized across the years). What do not define these eras (for the most part) are interventions from outside cash infusions or venture capital—it should be understood that while esports have occasionally commanded large streams of funding, any particular boost or bubble was largely the result of technological or cultural barriers (or lack thereof) creating more or less direct pathways for competitive gaming to rise to the level of acceptance within larger society.

The Novelty Era of Esports (~1972–1996)

The Novelty Era of esports represents a series of semi‐structured but often ad hoc competitions structured around competitive gaming, where many of the modern artifacts of what was to become the esports industry were grounded—even down to how serious competitors played these games.

From the Spacewars! competition at Stanford in 1972, formalized competition in video gaming was sporadic and manifested as only a few notable entries. Nearly a decade later, in 1980, Atari created the Space Invaders Championship, banking off the wild success of the tournament's namesake game. This represents one of the first formalized tournaments where a game developer created and hosted the structure of competition. It would not be the last—as we'll see, esports have necessarily existed in the gravitational pull of the very game publishers that created the games, with varying degrees of intensity and investment.

Nintendo is a perfect example of this undulation, ranging from being a pivotal participant in early esports to sporadic involvement in more recent years. The 1984 Nintendo World Championship was a video game tournament at a scale never before reached in the industry. For nine months across 29 cities, more than 8,000 players accumulated (in hindsight, somewhat illogical) aggregated scores across a number of Nintendo titles ranging from Rad Racer to Super Mario Brothers 3.2 In addition to posting the largest prizes to date in competitive gaming (a $10,000 bond, a 40‐inch TV, and a Geo Metro), the hundreds of gaming stations and outsized competitive‐viewing screens were immortalized in The Wizard movie/multi‐hour‐long Nintendo ad.

Using esports as a marketing tactic for a given game (or in this case, games) is still a fairly common tactic in today's esports scene, though opportunities for businesses within these executions were still only nascent given the popular appraisal of video game tournaments as a novelty. Beyond the origins of esports as a marketing ploy, the Nintendo World Championships was one of the first large‐scale tournaments that demonstrated skill in gaming matters, and is a legitimate differentiator between folks who enjoy games and those who compete at the highest level. Perhaps much to the disappointment of bemused parents everywhere, merely knowing how to hold a controller is not quite enough for their little ones to parlay their afternoon leisure time into serious money.

The impact and differentiating effect of skill is perhaps no more apparent than our final notable moment of this era, the Deathmatch 95 tournament, hosted by then gaming‐fringe organization Microsoft. At the time, PCs were largely not a serious platform for gaming. Windows 95 was designed to streamline the operation and installation of a variety of software, including games. Moreover, in one of the many interweaved pivotal points between the history of gaming and esports, games like Super Mario Bros. 3 influenced pushing the technological boundaries of early PC game development to foster smoothly scrolling textures and other mainstays present in console gaming.3 So began the origination of legendary FPS games such as DOOM, the platform upon which one of the first esports superstars, Dennis “Thresh” Fong, built his fame.

Fong wasn't just good at games like DOOM and sister competitive shooter Quake, he was “eliminate the competition without being hit” good. He pioneered control techniques such as using the WASD keys on a keyboard to move his in‐game avatar rather than the regular arrow keys to create more natural space between his keyboard and mouse hand, in addition to easier access to nearby keys to select different weapons or movements. He memorized the layout of maps and areas where various resources in the game could be obtained easily (and at what times)—in other words, he set the standard for what differentiates someone who might be “good” at a given game vs. one of the best.

This “novelty” era thus represents the transition from competition in video gaming from a mere novelty to what could be argued to be serious, legitimate competition with high degrees of differentiation in skill and knowledge being the defining factor between success and defeat. While using competitions as elaborate expressions of experiential marketing for games (or game platforms, such as Windows 95) is indeed a practice that carries into the modern era, the growing scale of these events begins to present an opportunity where the competitive aspects of gaming can be structured as independent businesses. The question becomes, how to get these businesses to the masses, and are these presumed masses ready for them?

The Online of Esports (~1997–2008)

If there was any point in your life that you had heard about a major prize in esports, it's very likely the prize of the 1997 “Red Annihilation” tournament: legendary game programmer John Carmack's Ferrari 328 GTS. Though games like DOOM began to popularize the concept of playing games on the internet, the telecommunications infrastructure at the time did not quite allow for a game to be seamlessly played between (say) the East and West Coasts of the United States. As a result, it was the first time that Dennis “Thresh” Fong played Tom “Entropy” Kimzey, and the result was a complete blowout victory for Fong. He took home not only the Ferrari, but a heavy dollop of media attention given the headline‐grabbing nature of the prize.

The stage was well set for the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) to be founded that same year on a wave of attention from these early tournaments, hosting a series of competitions through this period and one of the first attempts to structure competitive gaming in a format similar to traditional sports. In tandem with these developments, a country with more developed internet infrastructure took the concept of competitive gaming to new heights.

After being hit hard by the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, the South Korean government turned to information technology as a widespread institutional bet for revitalizing the economy. The government invested some $11 billion into the network infrastructure of the country over the next five years. This equated to comparatively cheap high‐speed internet for the majority of South Koreans. Widespread high‐speed internet, combined with very concentrated populations and droves of unemployed folks seeking places outside the home to spend time, yielded the proliferation of “PC Bangs.” Roughly translating to “PC Rooms,” these internet cafes offered cheap eats and open licenses to a host of competitive PC games—most famously for the Koreans, this included the 1998 mega‐hit Starcraft, where later iterations would become colloquially known as the national pastime of the country.4

What's notable about developments in South Korea are not just the massive tournaments, prize purses, and mega‐starts such as Lim “BoxeR” Yo‐hwan pioneering personal endorsement deals, but the extent to which professional gaming was normalized into the fabric of Korean society. Structural factors such as the creation of government organizations like KeSPA (Korea e‐sports Association) and broadcasts on specialized TV networks via OGN (Ongamenet) cemented the importance of gaming and esports in modern South Korean culture (both among the youth and older generations).

The hard truth facing the blossoming esports industry back in the United States was that cultural acceptance, as in South Korea, is a necessary precursor to mass adoption. While prize money in esports during this period was on the rise due in part to entities such as CPL, television broadcasts of competitive gaming in the United States did not enjoy the mainstream success as those in South Korea. Quite the opposite—the stage was set for the industry to collapse.

In 2006 the “Cyber Gaming Series” (CGS) debuted on DirectTV in the United States; problems related to situating video game tournaments in a format for TV were immediately apparent. The global financial crisis essentially ended the series in 2008, after only two seasons. In doing so, the early assumptions that TV would be the vehicle through which esports was propelled to the ranks of traditional sporting events were dashed. This cancelation also served a near‐fatal blow to the industry at large: Based upon the failure of CGS, corporate investment in competitive gaming dried up, and tournament prize purses were essentially halved.5

The actual broadcast themselves struggled to solidify even those deeply interested in esports by selecting games to showcase with broader “mass appeal” (such as Project Gotham Racing) than those with established competitive communities, and made production decisions that prized TV drama and aesthetics over accepted game play conventions among the community (such as shortening the number of rounds in competitive shooter Counter‐Strike). The result was a bit of a “worst of both worlds” scenario where fans were alienated, and newcomers not yet given quite enough information to contextualize or understand the competitive stakes. The need to remain true to the fan base and deliver content in a way that was fit for the interactive nature of video games was a hard‐learned lesson during this time.

While it is easy to see this era as a dark point in the narrative of esports, a number of important innovations (or in some cases, realizations) came to light. First, perhaps most notably from the seeds of the Deathmatch 95 event, the PC emerged as the most prominent platform for esports. Much of the popularity of early PC gaming was due to online‐enabled games, allowing for competitive scenes to grow beyond the bounds of local events or communities. The extent to which online gaming permeated popular culture appears to be roughly commensurate with the sophistication of internet infrastructure in the given area—where esports in South Korea flourished, the United States was just finding its footing. Much of the early success in the United States was almost completely lost due to the translatability of gaming content to the TV for the presumed optimal U.S. viewing experience from producers who might not have fully understood competitive gaming to a casual audience that wasn't terribly interested.

Ultimately, understanding the trajectory of esports requires understanding cultural, societal, and technological factors around the media—both within the fandom and the larger popular culture that envelopes it. Moreover, creating a viewing experience that embraces the established community while remaining open to new fans (beyond the false hope that they will merely “flip the channel” to gaming and become fans) remains one of the biggest challenges for the industry even today. Both of these concerns found a partial solve with the proliferation of internet streaming.

The Networked Era of Esports (2009–2015)

After various forays into more generalized live “life streaming” on Justin.tv, Twitch.tv was launched in public beta in 2011 with the realization that some of the most popular content on the platform was related to gaming. Even as commercial internet became more viable for online gaming, consumption of gaming content not directly related to playing was difficult to come by (and as noted above, certainly quite scant on TV). And yet, existing mechanisms for broadcasting on the internet were either crude or expensive, creating difficulties for both individual enthusiasts and the surviving esports organizations.

Twitch provided an elegant solution to both problems while fusing in a social component to the livestream, thereby allowing for fans not just to spectate à la a linear broadcast, but mingle and chat with fellow enthusiasts while spectating. As with the proliferation of online games, being able to find more abundant community en masse over the internet allowed for esports producers and fans to find a media vehicle better suited for their medium than television. Twitch was not the first (or even today, only) service to cater to gaming enthusiasts—it overcame incumbents such as Ustream by merit of the fact that the core team at Twitch deeply cared about gaming. Here again, authenticity and understanding matter—in this case, the payoff was nearly cornering an emerging field of platforms.

While YouTube had for years been well utilized by the esports community to distribute game videos, the live and interactive nature of streaming sites such as Twitch provided a format that was both better fit for live content and social interactivity. In recent years YouTube has invested heavily into YouTube Gaming for livestreaming, and social media juggernaut Facebook has embraced a similar paradigm. The proliferation of these platforms helped establish a more solid foundation for the esports industry by not only concentrating viewership and building pathways for a distributed fandom to interact, but also by providing a mechanism through which revenue could flow for both large and small operators. Previously, esports monetization had largely been tethered to wins (tournament prize purses) or corporate sponsorship (which outside of some of the notables above, were difficult to come by in these early years). Twitch allowed for easy access to direct community support via subscribers, opportunities to monetize around ads, and in general establish platforms for gaming creators and organizations to both establish and profit from audiences. In short, it was both a better‐fit distribution platform as well as a mechanism through which additional money could be pumped into the ecosystem (the final step of this monetization evolution is something we'll address in the final “era” outlined here).

During the early days of Twitch, it helped that one of the most popular games at the time was one that not only continued the legacy of one of the most important games in esports, but was (arguably, one of the first games from a major publisher) designed with professional competition in mind: Starcraft II. Basically, every game that becomes a fixture in esports has a competitive mode that pits human opponents against others. It may sound counterintuitive considering the current popularity of esports, but prior to this point very few of them were created with an eye towards being a legitimate competitive platform. However, as is the case with much of gaming history (and in particular, esports history), some of the biggest innovations still came not from the publishers, but from the larger community via modifications on these titles.

It was from community‐made modifications that one of the most popular esports genres was born: Massive Online Battle Arenas (MOBAs). The origination of MOBAs from a free mod built upon a popular game to billion‐dollar franchises is a confusing web of semi‐anonymous programmers, lawsuits, and big‐publisher acquisitions. For the sake of brevity, we'll focus on the two most popular end‐product franchises: Defense of the Ancients (Dota) and League of Legends (LOL). These titles are notable not only because they are rooted in community modding, but also because they are further demonstrations of the power of free‐to‐play monetization models in modern gaming, to the point of radically impacting the world of esports. Notably, Dota publisher Valve tapped into both the impact of community and the proceeds from the free‐to‐play model of Dota by having portions of Dota in‐game sales contribute to the prize purse of The International, the championship for the Dota esports scene. The result are some of the biggest prize pools in esports today, regularly amounting to tens of millions of dollars since 2014.6

What we will refer to as the Networked era is an important interval where esports rose from the ashes of a burst bubble attributable to conforming to the hurdles of traditional media. Somewhat ironically, the birth of Twitch from Justin.tv was also spurred by the fact that showcasing legacy media content via the streaming service was regularly challenged (notably, legal battles with Mixed Martial Arts broadcasts).7 For the marketing and other sundry business readers, such statements outlining the limitations of legacy platforms and media content might seem heretical. And yet, the reality is that the conventions of media consumption in agency media planning are increasingly far from the realities of how media is consumed, particularly among younger consumers. Even as TV viewership dwindles, overall investment among brands on TV advertising remains relatively stable—this is not to say that esports or esports fans don't need TV, but rather that TV needs entertainment platforms like esports and the legions of fans it commands. We may simply not yet be at the point where a healthy convergence is possible aside from occasional showcases.

And while it should be understood that the gaming content on these platforms isn't exclusively esports (we'll discuss streaming more generally later, to understand the intersection of gaming, esports, and more generalized content produced on these platforms), during this period we also find game studio design decisions to begin to incorporate esports, and grassroots community efforts to have a significant influence upon the entire trajectory of the industry.

If this sounds reminiscent of the tug‐of‐war between community and business interests we opened this chapter with, it's because that is indeed the case. The final era represents more such push and pulls—publishers reclaiming the trajectory of the competitions around their games, efforts to push the commercialization of esports into a mold that marketers and decision makers could more easily understand, and actors within the industry outside of the game publishers further diversifying the ways they monetize their fan bases.

The New Professionalized Era (aka the Content Era) of Esports (2016–Now)

In 2016, The Overwatch League (OWL) was launched by Blizzard Entertainment as a structured, professional league built around worldwide FPS hit Overwatch. Complete with city‐based teams, minimum salaries, and healthcare for players, and less explicit focus on prize money, the Overwatch League borrowed heavily from the structure of traditional sports in an effort to create an enduring and stable structure for the Overwatch esports scene. This also carried the benefit of being highly translatable to sponsorship buyers in the traditional sports marketing world. It is perhaps no coincidence that this same year, ESPN launched a dedicated esports section and traditional sporting organizations were buying stakes in esports franchises.8

OWL was not the last nor the first time esports competitions would be structured and controlled by the game publisher. In fact, CGS (you know, that TV series that crashed the early esports industry) had some of these features. The difference in this case is not only stewardship by the creators of the game itself (for better or worse, thereby catering to the fans in a specific way), but the value it generates for the participating entities. Buying a spot in a league like OWL (often for tens of millions of dollars9) opened yet another revenue stream wherein the teams could act as a media property with durable assets not exclusively tied to whether the team wins or loses.10

Much like the introduction of Twitch, this represents yet another potential revenue stream from teams, who in some cases are building multiple lines of businesses across different tournaments, leagues, and competitions. By diversifying their portfolios they shelter their business from the collapse of a single game, publisher, or content platform (like a TV show). With both social media and streaming sites encompassing hefty portions of the media diet for young consumers, esports‐based entities have increasingly become content‐creation engines across the digital landscape. As an example, one need look no further than the prolific gaming organization FaZe Clan, perhaps most familiar to those outside the gaming industry as being the first gaming group to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine.11 Though rooted in esports competition, Faze is perhaps now best described as a lifestyle marketing brand conveying the intersection of urban styling and gaming prowess, complete with lucrative content sponsorship deals with blue‐chip brands such as McDonald's.12

Even in this world of gaming‐studio‐controlled competition, OWL was predated by Riot (publisher of League of Legends) who took control of esports competitions in the United States and Europe in 2013. This was initially mostly a cost‐center for Riot rather than an independent business unit with expectations for profitability. By consolidating and (presumably) improving the quality and coherency of the tournaments through which League of Legends is played, esports are largely used as a marketing tool to drive additional players and deeper engagement with the core game (to then monetize fans through in‐game purchases).

Both the utilization of esports as game marketing and reliance on free‐to‐play monetization are key features to another genre that exploded in recent years. The reason that many of you seeking to understand gaming and esports may have been brought to this book is likely attributable to the battle royale juggernaut Fortnite.

In a formula first pioneered by (you guessed it!) a modification‐one build for military simulation game ARMA 2: PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG), first launched in late 2017. The battle royale style–game features a hundred players dropped onto an island with rapidly contracting borders (such that the players are forced closer and closer together) where they must search for weapons and defeat all their opponents until a single winner emerges. In some ways, Fortnite (itself built from a different game mode) perfected this model via whimsical and kid‐friendly art direction, humor, and intriguing‐level design that didn't have to conform to the photorealistic grittiness of PUBG. In addition to smaller competitive events, Fortnite publisher Epic pours tens of millions into the prize purse of larger competitions like the Fortnite Championship Series.13

These early battle royale giants were also among the first to allow for cross‐play across multiple devices, including mobile (i.e., a player can use a single profile, complete with various cosmetics and achievements, to play the core game with others on their PC, game console, or mobile phone). Though most popular on the Asian content at this time and growing in the shadow of the broader esports industry, mobile esports represent a larger trend we'll touch upon more as we think about the future of the gaming ecosystem. PUBG in particular is among the largest games in this rapidly expanding scene.14

The modern esports scene is thus one that is both diversifying its core business while trying to find traction among legacy business practices. It represents an era where game publishers have truly taken a position of power within the industry after recognizing the immense revenue and marketing potential of structured game competitions, thereby creating a firm distinction between those who make money through competition vs. the facilitation of competition.

Overtime: Conclusions and Implications

Despite the long history and progress noted above, the industry is still very much a work in progress. For all the fear that modern esports once again sits on a bubble ripe to burst, no doubt fueled by the occasionally misinformed or bad‐faith statistics that seem to inflate the size and influence of the industry, I'd say that this is a mischaracterization. This is not from any special faith put into industry statistics (in fact, I'd describe my orientation as being on the more cynical side) so much as the fact that many important cultural social bedrocks are in place. From esports curricula in universities to collegiate and even high‐school teams becoming a mainstay in educational institutions, as increasing numbers of consumers grow up with an interest in gaming, avenues to pursue or view serious competition will increase in kind.

A world where competitive entertainment is increasingly not simply hosted online, but is online‐native, and untethered by the rules of physics or anything but the bounds of the human imagination paints a compelling picture of where competitive entertainment may soon be trending. We'll consider this more near the end of this book.

From a business standpoint, the concern for a “bubble burst” is overblown for the simple fact that esports is a phenomenon that does not sit within a singular, monolithic, all‐or‐none bubble. The industry is increasingly populated by a number of sophisticated actors, businesses, and parent corporations with varying mechanisms through which revenue can flow into and out of the industry. As such, similar to video games, esports are not merely a flash‐in‐the‐pan fad, but present a multitude of opportunities to reach the new millennial/Gen Z heads of households in a manner that respects and understands the medium.

Through this chapter we've established a number of defining attributes of esports that deserve consideration as we discuss the merits of integrations into this space:

  • Though esports have a surprisingly long history, the core businesses within are still developing and are semi‐volatile.
  • Games are often social activities, and esports are the expression of a set of these games being played at an extremely high level beyond the potential of most game players.
  • Esports have a long history of community involvement, and business people interacting with esports would do well to understand that the community (rightly) feels ownership over this medium.
  • The earliest competitive video game tournaments were largely marketing events—as gaming spread via the proliferation of consumer internet, outside parties beyond the game publishers began to seek methods to profit off of competitive gaming.
  • The resulting industry is thus one that includes a number of actors looking to profit from or through professional competition, not entirely dissimilar to traditional sports monetization.
  • With some notable exceptions, esports exist largely in an online world via PC platforms. We'll address some of these important exceptions in the next chapter.
  • Because of the unique and online nature of esports, viewing has largely been consolidated within online streaming platforms such as Twitch.
  • Esports are either an independent business unit or marketing tactic for game publishers, which in turn influences the ways outside entities are integrated into the experience.

One of the more famous idioms in esports is “glhf,” often sent to competitors at the start of the match. It's an expression of good sportsmanship that is an acronym for “Good luck, have fun.” As for the business of esports and any other developing industry, having fun isn't always a given, and more than a little luck is often the key. In the next chapters, we will discuss the more generalized phenomenon of game streaming before finally turning to additional business considerations in the modern esports world.

Notes

  1. 1. William Collis, The Book of Esports (New York: Rosetta Books, 2020).
  2. 2. Paul “Redeye” Chaloner, This Is Esports (and How to Spell It): An Insider's Guide to the World of Pro Gaming (London: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2020), 35–36.
  3. 3. David Kushner's Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture (New York: Random House, 2004) is an excellent and entertaining account of the early days of id Software—the studio behind important titles such as Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM, and Quake.
  4. 4. David O'Keefe, “How Blizzard's StarCraft Became South Korea's National Pastime,” The Esports Observer, October 29, 2018, https://archive.esportsobserver.com/starcraft-ii-esports-essentials.
  5. 5. Chaloner, This Is Esports, 67.
  6. 6. See Dota 2 Prize Pool Tracker (https://dota2.prizetrac.kr/) for a historical and real-time tracker of International and other Dota prize pools.
  7. 7. This is certainly not a matter that has been completely settled or become less complicated as a function of time—Twitch and the creators on the platform are regularly in conflict with the music industry via DMCA take-downs (https://blog.twitch.tv/en/2020/11/11/music-related-copyright-claims-and-twitch/).
  8. 8. Roger Groves, “Robert Kraft Investment in Esports Telling About Millennial Disaffection with Traditional Sports,” Forbes, July 17, 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/rogergroves/2017/07/17/robert-kraft-investment-in-esports-telling-about-millennial-disaffection-with-traditional-sports/?sh=482435f8347f.
  9. 9. Jacob Wolf, “Sources: Overwatch League Expansion Slots Expected to Be $30 Million to $60 Million,” ESPN, May 10, 2018, https://www.espn.com/esports/story/_/id/23464637/overwatch-league-expansion-slots-expected-30-60-million.
  10. 10. Collis, The Book of Esports, 85.
  11. 11. Rohan Nadkarni, “The Stream Team,” Sports Illustrated, June 10, 2021, https://www.si.com/tech-media/2021/06/10/daily-cover-faze-clan-kyler-murray-bronny-james.
  12. 12. Mike Stubbs, “McDonald's Sponsors FaZe Clan in Major Deal,” Forbes, August 3, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikestubbs/2021/08/03/mcdonalds-sponsors-faze-clan-in-major-deal/?sh=35ca030570cf.
  13. 13. Andrew Webster, “Epic Pledges $20 Million for Fortnite Esports in 2021,” The Verge, January 19, 2021, https://www.theverge.com/2021/1/19/22239161/fortnite-esports-fncs-prize-pool-2021.
  14. 14. Niko Mobile Esports Report, “Special Report: Evolution of Mobile Esports for the Mass Market,” Niko Partners report, August 18, 2019, https://nikopartners.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Evolution-of-Mobile-Esports-for-the-Mass-Market.pdf.
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