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The Rise Of eSports In Asia

eSports as an industry has seen consistent growth over its two-decade lifetime. In the past few years, it hovered around the 16% compound annual growth rate. In plain words, that means that each year, the total revenue of all eSports combined grew by 16%. That is about to change, as many statistics point to quite an abnormal decade ahead. Predictions for eSports revenues project $1.8 billion dollars in 2022. Which is almost twice the revenue of around $1 billion in 2021.

Doubling in whole market value isn’t exactly a common scenario for most industries. The  reasons for these projections are many. Discussing each would require a few more dedicated articles. It is simple to see eSports are a serious growth sector. Asia is a particularly important region for eSports, and over 50% of total revenue comes from here. China is only behind North America, but in just a few years, that will change as well. Here is what happened to eSports in Asia.

Becoming Real Sports

We will discuss the history of this, but first, what makes a sport “real” by any definition? Chess is a real sport, and so is soccer. Why are eSports not treated the same? In short, eSports is being recognized as a sporting discipline. In 2022, it will be the first time that the Asian Games will feature eight eSport events. The International Olympic Committee is the organizer of these games. This is a huge recognition of eSports.

There’s no debate left whether eSports are a real sport. eSports involve skills which take years to develop. Skills which are often associated with sport like hand-eye coordination and muscle memory. These sports involve strategy, much like chess. They are being recognized as on par with traditional sports. For many eSports there are hundreds of annual tournaments. You can watch all of them online or even in-person. Spectating offers the same thrill you would any other sports event. For gamers, eSports are much more interesting than soccer or hockey.

As with any sport, betting on your favorite team has become an important aspect of the sport. Real money is at stake for the players and the spectators, much as with horse racing or the Super Bowl. One of the reasons the Asian market leads in eSports revenue is due to the saturation of eSports betting. According to Keita M, editor of a popular Japanese sports betting blog, it’s simple to do online.

Turning A Hobby Into Careers

Back in the early 2000s, players gathered in clubs and played over LAN to see who could beat each other in a game. This wasn’t online gaming but it planted the seeds for a future. Some of these small home tournaments offered prizes. Nothing like the tournaments and prizes of today, but the foundations were being laid. Playing computer games was a hobby, not a way to earn money.

Fast forward two decades, you can make a career out of playing games. We are not talking about one person in a million or making a small salary. In China, the average professional gamer earns three times the average salaried worker does. One could see how the young might be disillusioned with working a 9-5 when seeing this statistic. Why work when you could instead play a favorite game eight hours a day and earn an above average salary. For anyone who likes video games, this question is laughable to ask

How did we get here? The answer in a few crucial moments. Two particular games paved the way for eSports, and the rest is history. The first popular MOBA, DotA, showed us that you could make a lot of money out of gaming. The winners of the biggest tournaments earned thousands of dollars out of winnings, and smaller tournaments year-round would also provide players with big prize pools.

When Gaming Becomes Employment

The Counter-Strike series was the next big hit. Imitating DotA tournaments paid off, and it was the next big eSports. A completely different genre, this drew a lot of additional players who weren’t particularly interested in MOBAs. But it wasn’t until Dota 2 came around that it was absolutely clear that not only can you make a living out of gaming, you can become a millionaire if you are that good.

A remake of the original title, Dota 2 was a breakthrough through which the whole eSports scene arose. The International, the most important tournament, offered a shocking $1,600,000 to the winning teams. Fast forward ten years, the winning teams receive $40,000,000 in total. These are not hobby-level payouts. eSports turned into real sports, with big money involved, and tremendous competition.

League Of Legends, Overwatch, Wild Rift

We are just scratching the tip of the surface. As of right now, there are hundreds of popular eSports, and big names like League of Legends and Overwatch might ring a few bells. Wild Rift, a mobile version of Rift, is getting tremendous attention since 2020. It shows that eSports are by no means limited to PCs. Asian players occupy a particularly dominating position in almost all eSports. If not the winners, they are always the prime contenders in competition.

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