Published en El Pais, 29 May 2018.
In just a couple of weeks the world will be glued to their televisions to watch the FIFA World Cup. I do not have to tell you how popular the tournament is, even in my country Canada, a country which normally pays more attention to hockey, closely follows the tournament as people cheer for various teams. What may be a surprise to you, is that FIFA has another tournament happening in early August, the FIFA eWorld Cup, a tournament dedicated to the FIFA 18 video game where players will compete in a fashion like the real tournament, albeit in a virtual form.
You may think this is strange, but eSports is slowly becoming a real thing, FIFA and Electronic Arts have been hosting tournaments all year leading up to this event and last year the industry attracted over 300 million viewers world wide. This does not include the millions who watch players live stream themselves playing video games on providers YouTube and SwitchTV.
What is behind this surge in popularity? For one its not as if eSports has come from nowhere as amateur competitions have been going on for as long as video games have existed. From kids hosting their own tournament in their living room to online tournaments hosted by the companies themselves and with the rise of streaming technology it has become easier for players to gain a wider audience than before, so the surge in popularity should not come as a surprise.
While the games they are playing are virtual, the money being made is not. Video game company Blizzard was able to sell out its tournament with an average price of $200 a ticket in roughly 6 seconds and it was recently announced that popular videogame Fortnight will be hosting tournaments all year with a total prize pool of $100 million dollars. The large audience being attracted also opens many possibilities for sponsorship deals.
Personally, I do not get the appeal, I enjoy playing video games but the thought of spending hours watching others play sounds boring to me (although I guess the same logic could be applied to real sports). Regardless of my opinion the trend in esports is certainly interesting to watch as the audience, and the money being made off it, continues to grow and it may not be long before kids talk about video game players being their idol rather than traditional sports stars.
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