In British Columbia and beyond, esports are booming. Many universities are forming esports teams for games like Overwatch, League of Legends, Rocket League, Counter-Strike, and Dota 2 to compete in collegiate leagues around the world.
Last year in 2018, the owner of the Vancouver Canucks acquired an esports team to compete in the Overwatch League, a tournament league officially ran by Blizzard, the developers of Overwatch. This year, teams are competing in the league for a chunk of a $5 million prize pool. Many players competing in the Overwatch Collegiate Championships are scouted by large teams and play in hopes of being signed onto a bigger one. This gives talented players a clear path for graduating from being amateur competitors to professional gamers who can live off of their winnings and sponsorships.
Last year, the Rogers Arena was packed for the 2018 International Dota 2 championships, where 18 teams competed for more than $33 million—the largest prize pool for an esports event in history. Dota 2 is the esport with the largest prize pools in the world, and they are set to beat that record in 2019.
If you think that sounds like a lot of money, this year Fortnight will become the first game to offer a prize pool of $39 million for the Fortnight World Cup in July. With prize pools growing so large, it’s easy to see why gaming as a whole is flourishing. Instead of simply playing for fun, people are now seeing gaming as a possible investment in skills that could win you prizes.
The grand opening of the Gaming Stadium in Richmond on June 28 was a milestone for esports in British Columbia. With its construction came the creation of Canada’s first dedicated esports gaming stadium.
They host competitive events most days of the week for various video games that either individuals or teams can sign up for. All of their events are broadcasted on Twitch—the leading live streaming platform for gamers and esports events—using great production quality. The Gaming Stadium is sure to cultivate new talent in the community as the local population will be able to go there to practice, socialize, and get a sense of what being an esports player feels like.
In 2018, esports had a total audience size of 380 million, and esports research firm Newzoo predicts that that number will increase to 557 million by 2021. As a result, an increasing number of large brands will sponsor events and tournaments, which has lead Newszoo to believe that esports will reach a market value of $1.7 billion USD by 2021, overtaking the revenue generated by rugby. They also predict that, with the help of esports, the global games market will generate over $180 billion USD.
As the life of a professional gamer continues to look more and more lucrative, it may eventually become more common for parents to push their children towards becoming a digital athlete than it is to involve them in traditional sports.