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The Rise of Esports in Asia

Photographer: Various


On 19 October 1972, the first video game tournament was held. A handful of people gathered in a computer lab at Stamford University, California, USA, to compete in the ‘Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics’ for the grand prize of an annual subscription to Rolling Stone magazine. Since then competitive computer gaming has come a long way from its humble beginnings. Esports, as it is known now, is no longer a sub-culture but roaring across the world supported by a voracious audience. Esports competitions are hallmarked by meticulously organized formats, stringent rules and large prize pools that see sponsored teams and individuals battle it out in various computer games. According to the 2019 Global esports Market Report by Newzoo, released on 12 February 2019, the esports market is expected to exceed 1 billion US dollar revenue mark for the first time in 2019 with a year-on-year growth of 26.7 percent.

The players that make it to the pinnacle of esports carry a celebrity like status and garner the attention of legions of fans. They are promoted to an esports viewership that has eclipsed that of many traditional sports‘, amassing more than a 205 million peak viewership for the 2018 League of Legends (LoL) World Championship. That figure is nearly double that of the 2018 Super Bowl at 118.2 million viewers, and far more than the 2018 Wimbledon of 9.44 million or the 7.3 million peak viewership of the 2017 Tour de France. And audience numbers are growing. With over 580 major esports events and a total prize pool of 112 million US dollar in 2017, esports is no longer relegated to LAN (local area network) cafes, but instead finds its place in large arenas with thousands of cheering spectators.

The continuing growth of esports across the world is dominant in the Asia-Pacific area which will account for 57 percent of all esports enthusiasts in 2019. The wave of a new sporting experience has also struck at conventional sports events in the region. Esports was a demonstration event at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, and esports will be a medal event at the Hangzhou, China, 19th Asian Games 2022. More cautious, the International Olympic Committee decided at a meeting end of 2018 that it is yet too early to make it an Olympic sport in Paris 2024. But talks continue and there’s still a possibility that some esports events will be held alongside the sport competitions or before the start of the Olympic Games.