Esports: From Niche Hobby to Mainstream Spectator Sport

Esports, otherwise known as competitive gaming, has been around for decades but has recently exploded in popularity and investment. In this blog, we will take a look at the origins of esports, its growing popularity and investment, professional esports leagues and players, its impact on traditional sports, and its future outlook. 

Origins of Esports

Esports has been around since the early days of video gaming when people competed in arcades for high scores on their favorite games. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, esports began to take shape in the form of tournaments. The first professional esports league, the Cyberathlete Professional League, was formed in 1997. However, esports didn’t really gain mainstream attention until the early 2000s, when games such as Halo and Counter-Strike became popular. 

Growing Popularity and Investment

The popularity of esports has grown exponentially in the last decade. According to Newzoo, the global esports audience is estimated to reach 495 million viewers in 2020, up from 395 million in 2019. This growth is driven by the increasing number of people who view esports content, as well as the growing investment in esports teams and organizations. According to Deloitte, the global esports market is expected to reach $1.1 billion in 2020, up from $950 million in 2019. 

Professional Esports Leagues and Players

The rise in popularity has resulted in the formation of several professional esports leagues. One of the most popular leagues is the Overwatch League, which was formed in 2018. Another popular league is the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS), which was formed in 2013. There are also several other professional leagues, such as the Call of Duty World League (CWL), the Rainbow Six Siege Pro League, and the Dota 2 Pro Circuit. 

Professional esports players are highly skilled and well-paid. According to Newzoo, the highest-earning esports players earned an estimated $3.8 million in 2019. The highest earners come from Dota 2 and League of Legends. 

Impact on Traditional Sports

The success of esports has had a profound impact on traditional sports. For one, esports has helped traditional sports teams and leagues reach a new audience. This is evident in the formation of the NBA 2K League in 2018. Additionally, the success of esports has encouraged traditional sports teams and leagues to invest in the space. 

The growth of esports has also had a positive impact on youth sports. According to the National Federation of High School Associations, there are currently over 8,000 high school esports teams in the United States. This is a testament to the fact that esports can be just as engaging and exciting as traditional sports. 

Future Outlook

The future of esports looks bright. The global esports audience is expected to reach 646 million viewers by 2023, according to Newzoo. Additionally, the global esports market is expected to reach $1.6 billion by 2023. 

As esports continues to grow in popularity, more traditional sports teams and leagues will look to invest in the space. This could open up new opportunities for esports teams and players, as well as create new opportunities for fans to experience the thrill of competitive gaming. 


Esports has come a long way since its early days in arcades. The global esports audience and market are both growing rapidly, and the impact on traditional sports has been significant. With more traditional sports teams and leagues investing in the space, the future outlook for esports looks bright.

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