Friday Reads: Is it a sport?

I spent some time today catching up on interesting reads in the world of eSports today and noticed the president of ESPN, John Skipper, mentioned he does not consider eSports to be sports. Here’s Skipper’s quote taken from re/code:

“It’s not a sport — it’s a competition. Chess is a competition. Checkers is a competition,” said Skipper last Thursday at the Code/Media Series: New York conference. “Mostly, I’m interested in doing real sports.”

More links on the matter:

And, ICYMI – earlier this year, CGI Innovation Lab Intern, Ross Dunham, wrote a bit on the rise of eSports and the viewership traffic and business trends related to Twitch.tv:

Ross Dunham

Ross Dunham, Former CGI Innovation Lab Student

The growth of electronic sports — better known as eSports — has been rapid over the last two years. The term eSports is an umbrella that describes the competitive gaming community based around real-time strategy,fightingfirst-person shooter, and multiplayer online battle arena games where teams of four or more compete for trophies and prize pools. As the community has evolved over time, video game developers are being asked to consider eSports when designing. The parallels between professional sports and eSports have become more and more prevalent as 2014 rolls along. Where football and basketball draw millions of viewers on a given night, the gaming community is gaining steam in that department. (click here to read the full piece)

What do you think about sports and eSports? For a general overview, there’s also Ross’s link roundup on eSports from last fall. Here’s a few more recent reads related to the ways eSports is having an impact on the world:

In any case, it seems that when it comes to business, the differences between sports and eSports may not matter. Did you come across anything interesting related to eSports this week? Share your reads with us on Facebook, Twitter, or here in the comments.

The rise of eSports

The growth of electronic sports — better known as eSports — has been rapid over the last two years. The term eSports is an umbrella that describes the competitive gaming community based around real-time strategy, fighting, first-person shooter, and multiplayer online battle arena games where teams of four or more compete for trophies and prize pools. As the community has evolved over time, video game developers are being asked to consider eSports when designing.

The parallels between professional sports and eSports have become more and more prevalent as 2014 rolls along. Where football and basketball draw millions of viewers on a given night, the gaming community is gaining steam in that department.

Metrics obtained recently by DeepField.com show that Twitch.tv ranks 4th in peak Internet traffic, surpassing both Facebook and Hulu in viewers, accounting for 1.8% of the U.S. viewership. Netflix leads the charge with 32%, followed by Google (22%) and Apple (4.3%).twitch_chart

Twitch, an online platform where users can stream what games they’re playing or watch others play, is “one of the biggest users of bandwidth in the U.S. and the world,” according to their information page on the site. At the beginning of February, the Twitch team announced they hit one million active broadcasters, and that’s not to mention the amount of viewers they hit in a month (estimated around 45 million).

The fact that Twitch.tv has so many viewers on a monthly basis suggests a couple of things: people’s interest in video games is not only on playing terms now; and much like sports, they’re a new form of “television” entertainment.

“We receive a significant amount of traffic from the major esports events and nobody really comes close to us in terms of audience size in that market, but it’s the presence of the rest of the video game ecosystem, spanning casual gamers to developers, publishers, and media, that create the real magic,” Twitch’s VP of Marketing Matthew DiPietro told onGamers in an interview in February. “It’s a safe to say Twitch is the central hub for the entire video game industry to share their passion for games.”

This piece isn’t supposed to be solely focused on Twitch, but it’s hard not to tie the current success of the gaming community with the live streaming platform.

“When video game historians look back on gaming a decade from now, 2013 will be the year they cite as the tipping point of streaming,” said Matthew DiPietro Twitch’s VP of Marketing at the time. “Every major event, publisher, developer, and media outlet in the gaming industry had a presence on Twitch, and streaming became an ever-present piece of the gaming experience. And it’s only going to get bigger.”

The rise of eSports can be linked to live streaming as well even though the competitive gaming community has been around much longer than sites like Twitch. Many professional players stream their team’s practices and play sessions for fans to watch, and they typically range from about six to 12 hours at a time. A lot of the professional gamers make a living off of ad & subscriber revenue via streaming websites like Twitch or MLG.tv. Take pro Call of Duty player, Matt “Nadeshot” Haag for example — he mentioned that he’s making six figures a year just from Youtube royalties, and that’s not including his winnings from tournaments.

Stats obtained from esportsearnings.com show that the highest earning professional gamer, Jae Dong Lee, has made over $500,000 playing the Starcraft series competitively. While there is a considerable amount of money in eSports, it is still dwarfed by professional sports. The top paid athlete in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers, is making a whopping $40 million a year. Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers in the MLB just signed a deal that guarantees him $292 million over the next ten years.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 11.33.18 AMThat’s not to say the money surrounding eSports isn’t growing. In March, Activision – contributors to the Call of Duty series – held the Call of Duty Championships in Anaheim, Calif. where the winnings totaled a million dollars. According to quantcast.com, MajorLeagueGaming.com, who was in partnership with Activision and live-streamed the event, reached over 240,000 viewers on March 30th for the grand finals. The International 2013, a Dota 2 tournament held in Seattle, had the largest prize pool of any eSports competition to date with a grand total of $2,874,407. The winning team from that tournament took home over $1,400,000.

The eSports community now has a great effect on the developers of video games. Michael Condrey, the co-founder of Sledgehammer Games which is making the next Call of Duty in the series, has already spoken out that eSports are a very important aspect of their online play.

For years, professional players have complained that the developers don’t focus enough on the competitive scene, and too much on just the average gamer’s experience. Rightly so, the majority of the people buying their games aren’t professional players. Yet, with the growing audience glued to the eSports, developers have no choice but to adapt much like Condrey and Sledgehammer Games are.

We are really only on the cusp of the competitive gaming community. Kids are growing up in an age where video games are the main source of entertainment.

 

Games & Impact Link Round Up: First up, eSports

Welcome to the Round Up Series

This is the first post for our new weekly round up series for the Center for Games & Impact blog. At the Center we are all dedicated to games and positive social impact but our team members work in a variety of disciplines. I love hearing about what everyone else is reading and playing as we are going along about our separate projects. Recently, it came up that we should share our discoveries with each other and even here on the blog every few weeks or so. Ta da! The Friday Round Up series is born. Every so often we will post interesting games, books, blogs, and articles that we have come across online serendipitously, or perhaps from preliminary research into an area.

We would also like to know what you found interesting this week. Share your own interesting reads and plays with us in the comments.

This Week’s Round Up: An Initial Look at eSports

For the past few weeks some of our team has been looking at sports games, specifically at EA Sports’s Madden series and its newest release, Madden 25. Our sports games writer, Ross Dunham, has a review of the game on deck so be on the lookout for that in the next few weeks. In the meantime, we have also started to look at the growing world of eSports. Here are some interesting reads Ross came across during his research this week:

About eSports

The US Now Recognizes eSports Players as Professional Athletes (Forbes.com)
“To the general public, the idea that those who play video games for a living have much in common with high level professional athletes might be laughable. But those involved with the scene understand the unique talent, skill and determination of the players mirrors that of “real” athletes, even if their physical fitness is different.”  

Major League Gaming Looks to ESPN Model to Expand eSports Coverage (Forbes.com)
“Professional gaming continues to grow as a spectator sport, and Major League Gaming has presided over the dramatic expansion of the pastime in North America specifically the last few years. Their tournaments draw online stream viewers in the millions, while their average viewing times continue to rise with each passing event.”

Learning from eSports – 3 Ways to Make TV More Engaging Without the Second Screen (Gamification.co)
“For people who still watch regular broadcast television, it has become very common to actually watch TV while simultaneously using your laptop, phone, or tablet. Savvy networks like USA/NBC have picked up on this and created gamified mobile companion applications to engage with users as they both watch TV and browse on the net. There are compelling case-studies that outline the efficacy of this concept, coined the second screen, but I have not really seen any other kinds of engagement tactics for viewers. However, I found inspiration for new possible ways from the gamer community, and more specifically, the Dota 2 community.”

Popular eSports Games

DOTA 2
“Dota is a competitive game of action and strategy, played both professionally and casually by millions of passionate fans worldwide. Players pick from a pool of over a hundred heroes, forming two teams of five players.” —From Steam.com

League of Legends
“League of Legends (or as it was previously known, League of Legends: Clash of Fates) is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre video game developed by Riot Games, to operate on the Microsoft Windows operating system.[5] It was first announced on October 7th, 2008 and released a year later on October 27th, 2009.[6] The game was in beta from April 10th, 2009 [7] to October 26th, 2009.[8] ” —From the League of Legends Wikia

StartCraft II
“StarCraft II is a sequel to the PC based Real Time Strategy game StarCraft: Brood War made by Blizzard Entertainment. It is split into three installments: the base game with the subtitle Wings of Liberty, and two upcoming expansion packs, Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void. StarCraft II features the return of the three species from the original game: ProtossTerran, and Zerg.” —From Team Liquid liquidipedia

Ross, and Games & Impact Innovation Lab team members Ben Pincus and Alex Cope are working on a deeper look into eSports and impact – check back for their series in the upcoming months. Until then, where do you go to read about eSports or watch gameplay? Share your links in the comments below.