ESports and EGaming have taken off in recent years to become a multi-billion dollar industry. Illustration: Rame Abdulkader.
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EGaming projected to be a billion dollar a year industry by 2019

In the early 2000s, extreme sports such as the X Games, Red Bull Crashed Ice, and motocross races became mainstream with the advent of big corporate sponsorships of live television events.

In the 2010s, the beginnings of online gaming and social media platforms dedicated to streaming, known as ESports and EGaming, have led to a new moneymaker for thousands of people.

With the potential of being one of the biggest “sports” categories on earth due to its wide appeal and its international audience, ESports have risen from online player communities to events sponsored by corporations in the same way extreme sports gained traction in the early 2000s.

University of Ottawa human kinetics professor Eric MacIntosh highlighted the significance of ESports for the players.

“For many, it’s their full-time jobs.These events sell out fairly big venues and make money from broadcasting, merch, and sponsorships,” MacIntosh said.

In the first decade of ESports, many have risen to Internet stardom over the span of weeks to become household names on YouTube, Twitch, and even traditional media platforms such as ESPN and Sportsnet.

With competitions all over the world, featuring many different games, in the last five years ESports have become one extremely profitable industry, bringing in revenues of more than US $900 million in 2018 alone.

In 2018, analysis from estimates that over 380 million people will have tuned in to an ESport event by 2021, and that number could reach over 550 million.

“Broadcasting these event is great for the players, since it’s a free opportunity to promote themselves and their brand on national television,” MacIntosh said.

With this in mind, Statista also estimates that by 2021, ESports could bring in more than US $1.6 billion. However, this is still low if we consider that, in 2018, the NHL alone makes more than US $4 billion in annual revenues.

In contrast to traditional sports, there is no centralized ESport league. Players make money through sponsorships, donations from fans, and tournament money. Tournaments are organized around a certain video game, such as League of Legends, DOTA 2, Call of Duty, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Heroes of the Storm.

XY Gaming estimated that the prize pool for those games in 2017 was over $100 million.

On the Canadian side of things, gamers might remember EA and Sportsnet’s joint venture with international partners NBC Sports and ViaSat hockey to broadcast an NHL 18 Esport tournament with a prize of US $50,00.

Of course, this was a small tournament compared to international League Of Legends tournaments. Nevertheless, EA and Sportsnet’s call to sign up for the tournament in early 2018 made waves among Canadian hockey fans and gamers to have their chances to be Egamers.

On whether ESports are “sports” per say, MacIntosh for one has a positive interpretation.

“I personally think so. You need a skill set that’s not all that different from traditional sports, you need to be good at predicting your competitors’ next move,” MacIntosh said. “We also see increases in the players’ heartbeat and blood pressure. It is true thought that there is no physical action, (but racing doesn’t have any either)but neither does racing, and that’s considered a sport.”

While this has become a worldwide gaming trend, multiple Student Federation of the University of Ottawa clubs at the U of O are also dedicated to EGaming.

These include the EA Sports Fifa Club, the CS-GO club for Counter-Strike players, the Overwatch club, The Smash Bros Club, The League of Legends club, and finally the ESports Club, all of which are open to students.

“We host a variety of events such as meet and greets, online tournaments and viewing parties for big events like the World Championships. The main goal of the League of Legends club is to give a place for players to meet others and to create new friendships, or bonds with other students that go to the University of Ottawa,” Trent Schwartz, VP Collegiate with the League of Legends club, told the Fulcrum in an email.

“In the club, we also cater to all students whether they are competitive or just a casual player looking to have some fun. On the competitive side, we host multiple teams each with different rank requirements so everyone has a shot at making a team, and on the casual side we host in-house games where people can just come and have fun with their friends or other students.”

The League of Legends club, and all ESports clubs at the U of O, are open to students. For more information about how to join the club you can contact them through Facebook, such as the uOttawa League of Legends page, or email them directly.