Video gamers and enthusiast watched a total of 2.4 billion hours of video games online, according to a study released earlier this week on the industry of eSports by market research firm IHS.
That number— up nearly twofold from the previous year— is only one of the indicators that help explain why watching eSport competitions has become a global trend in the entertainment industry. And this weekend, industry leader Major League Gaming (MLG) is participating in the 20th anniversary of the X Games on ESPN for the first time.
Competitive gaming and commentary have previously been broadcasted on niche cable networks and various online outlets, but this weekend marks the first time that eSports is being displayed so prominently in mainstream media, marking a huge step in its growth over the last few years.
“I think it’s not unlike most sports — you can almost apply the Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hour rule and a mix of natural talent for sure,” Mike Sepso, co-founder and president of MLG told USA Today about the legitimacy of eSports. “But what tends to separate people from your typical hardcore computer gamer to someone who can be a professional is a mix of natural talent and real practice.”
eSports do, however, have some pushback, especially for being touted as a “sport” and broadcasted on ESPN, alongside extreme sports mainstays like skateboarding and BMX.
However, the market can be seen as similar to poker, which entered into mainstream sports when ESPN started broadcasting it, and is now hugely popular to watch.
According to the company, MLG has a round 9 million registered users worldwide. The biggest players can make around six figures a year, not unlike other extreme sports and poker players.
YouTube’s most subscribed-to channel is actually that of an Esports commentator, Pew Die Pie, lending us a view into ESPN’s decision to start broadcasting the games.
If you still need convincing that eSports are legitimate, just consider the following: according to the Daily Dot, there are more young competitive gamers in the U.S. than there are currently kids playing baseball.
What exactly is a sport again?
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.