Rise of Esports™ is a exploration of where culture and technology meet, to further understand if Esports are here to stay, and where they fit in the entertainment ecosystem.

Is it Esports or eSports?

We agree with the Associated Press, that the word is a common noun, thus would be written as “esports” when used in a sentence, or “Esports” when used in the beginning of a sentence (or the name of our website…) Link to Esports Insider article.

What games qualify as esports?

There is no fixed definition of what games make an esport. The general criteria is that, live competitive play is interesting to watch. So far, the level of “interesting” scales with the complexity of the action and likewise, the skill needed to achieve the actions. Be it reflexes, strategy, spectacle or some combination the three. Early games were Starcraft II, Counterstrike, Defense of the Ancients (DotA) and League of Legends. There are currently many more…

When and how did esports start?

From the very beginning, esports have been a fan-driven enterprise. In the early days of the public internet (late 1990s, early 2000s) connection speeds were low (56kbps) and fans would have to load a full (retail purchased) version of a game on their personal computer, using it in “spectator mode” where, instead of the computer connecting as another player to a server, it receives a data stream of the live player events and renders the visuals in real time, locally. Fans would then have to find (or host) a live audio feed (aka Internet Radio) offering “color commentary” often from another player experienced with the subtleties of the game. A fair amount of effort and of skill was required to pull it off.

How did access to esports grow?

As services like YouTube evolved, enterprising fans would record their locally rendered view of the game, edit multiple views together, then combine with slightly more scripted commentary, then upload for sharing. Many individuals would also share their solo, personal game-play experiences, often with commentary explaining what they are thinking, in a effort to share tips and tricks, educating other interested players.

What is Twitch and why does it matter?

As bandwidth increased, so did the persistence of fans, leveraging the “personal live streaming” service JustinTV for creating live-streams of game-play content. Fans would tune in an chat (with the players, and each other) in real time as they watched. JustinTV followed the trend in viewer engagement and doubled down on game-play steaming, eventually renaming the company “Twitch” (after the frenetic pace at which gamers play) and focusing exclusively on live-streaming game-play from PCs and consoles. In August of 2014, Amazon (the company that started as an online bookstore, which now also owns Whole Foods) purchased Twitch for 970 Million In Cash.

How to players make money playing games?

Twitch was first to market in solving the problem of connecting players and fans, and esports began it’s ascension toward what we know today. With the increased exposure, the effort put in to adding “production value” has grown substantial. With computer and video production equipment becoming commodities, the barrier to entry was lowered, and more individuals began streaming- not large competitive events, but their own game-play. Twitch and eventually YouTube jumped on another trend out of the interest of streamers to make money off their viewership. Viewers wanted to send money to players they liked, and thus the micro-transaction system of Bits and SuperChat (and Patreon, popular with video bloggers and podcasters) made it easier. As streamers prove their ability to command viewership, sponsors enter the picture to offer another source of revenue.