Athletics and Recreation

Esports is becoming a $1 billion industry | CNBC Sports

Esports is becoming a $1 billion industry | CNBC Sports


I’ve come to an annual esports tournament
in Hong Kong, where gamers from all around the world have gathered to battle
in four tournaments. We’re not a bunch of bros drinking beer and
playing Mario Kart in the basement. Twelve international college and university teams
are vying for bragging rights and monetary rewards. When your program is as prestigious as ours,
you need to make sure you stay on top. During the festival, I will be meeting players
and fans to see how this fast-growing sector is becoming a billion-dollar industry. Electronic sports, or esports, is competitive
video gaming at a professional level, and every year, its audience is
growing by the tens of millions. 454 million people are expected
to watch an esports event this year. And with total esports revenues expected to
hit $1.1 billion in 2019, it’s no surprise that new multi-million-dollar esports arenas are popping
up around the globe, including here in Hong Kong. I’ve come to Asia’s largest esports complex
which was launched earlier this year, and it’s open for gamers 24 hours a day,
7 days a week. Let’s go take a look. The 25,000 sq ft complex includes training
facilities and a competition arena for up 80 players. The Cyber Games Arena, which cost $3.8M to build,
is expected to attract 1.2M visitors annually. That’s where I meet Andrew Smith. The competitive gamer has come to Hong Kong
with his esports team from Maryville University in St Louis, Missouri to compete in the
International College Cup. He’ll be playing League of Legends. It’s a multiplayer battle arena game, made by Riot
Games, which was acquired by tech giant Tencent. And just like any professional athlete,
you need your equipment. I’m the kind of person who will use one thing
until it pretty much doesn’t work anymore. The essentials are really your headset, your
mouse, your keyboard and your mousepad. Beyond that, you’re getting into the extra territory,
but those four are the real crucial ones. It’s not just gaming publishers capitalizing
off the esports boom. Companies like Logitech, Dell and even Ikea
are rushing to get a piece of the market. Andrew gives me a crash course
in League of Legends. Yeah, so you’re not doing
very hot right now. They’re actually killing you,
and you’re about to die. You can see your health bar is getting low. I quickly realize this game is much more complex
than the Mario racing games I’ve been used to. This game has a very, very steep learning curve. That’s why it takes thousands of hours. Having just arrived in Asia after a
16-hour journey, Andrew is jetlagged, yet eager to compete
at the upcoming tournament. It’s a crazy thing to go overseas across
the world to play video games. When I say I’m going to play League of Legends,
they are like, “What are you doing?” Then I say I’m going to Hong Kong, and they say, “You
can go to Hong Kong by playing computer games?” I played soccer, but what I really enjoyed
doing when I was a kid was playing video games. But it’s not just the professionals logging
hours on their favorite games. The fans are too. I love to play this game. About three to four hours everyday. Everyday!? Yeah. Three hours? Four hours. Okay, and do your parents get mad? Yes. They don’t like me playing games. As a younger kid, I definitely had my troubles
in school. I spent a lot of times playing video games
when I shouldn’t have. But for Andrew, playing video games for 10-12
hours a day paid off – literally. Andrew received a full scholarship to attend Maryville
University, where he joined the school’s esports team. It’s officially under the university’s athletics
department. Being a head coach is one of those jobs you
never really clock out of. Tanner Deegan is the full-time head coach
for the esports team at Maryville. Even when I go home, it’s something you’re
always thinking about. It’s the price you pay when you have that
responsibility, you’re never really turning it off. And with game day quickly approaching,
the pressure is on. I’ve come backstage of this weekend’s
main competition and as you can see, this is a full blown event. You have greenrooms for the MC,
for the commentators, and then you have multiple rooms for the teams,
where they strategize, give pep talks. Let’s go check in and
see what they’re up to. There is a lot of nervous energy, you can
really feel the tension in that room. There is now a crowd that is starting to form. This team flew from St. Louis to Hong Kong,
and it really comes down to this moment. It’s something you have to sacrifice to do, right?
If you want to be the best in anything. The competition here is truly global. Maryville is in Hong Kong
representing North America. Their first game is against a team from the
University of Porto, representing the EU. You just really need to get into the zone. It’s a very mental game. When something happens, you can feel it. You can feel it in the ground. Forty-five tense minutes later, Andrew and
his team beat the team from Portugal. Congratulations.
You guys did it. How does it feel? It feels good. We barely made it out of groups, so we’re
on to the next stage. That’s the first thing I do after a game,
I just go and drink a ton of water. The atmosphere is electric. Tens of thousands of spectators filled the
Hong Kong Convention Center over the weekend. And researchers say this is only the beginning. About 454 million people are expected to watch
esports this year. That’s projected to grow by almost another
200 million in just three years. And 57 percent of esports biggest enthusiasts
are located right here in the Asia-Pacific region. It all roots down to competition. It’s not the game result all the time
that matters. It’s usually what surrounds it,
the passion, the energy. The demand for esports is growing so quickly,
industry insiders are worried about a talent shortage. Unlike traditional sports, esports doesn’t have a formal
pipeline for turning amateurs into professionals. That bottleneck could even slow down the field’s
explosive growth. But some are seizing the opportunity. The Chinese Ministry of Education added esports and
gaming into its postgraduate and vocational curriculum. This means you can now take esports as a major
at some Chinese schools. And indeed that’s how Andrew and his team
met their match. The Maryville team made it to the final round
of the tournament, but ended up coming in second place to the winning team from China. It was a great experience, we got to come out to
Hong Kong, we got to play against other schools. It was cool to see that we’re second in the world. It was my last game as well. Surprisingly, I don’t really feel that yet. When I go back home and start switching up
my life and my career, that’s definitely when I’ll start to think about it. I did this for
seven or eight years, I had my run. Andrew is now becoming an assistant director
and coach where he wants to further the popularity of esports around the world,
especially in colleges. Think of him as an esports evangelist. I’m one of the very first people to
receive a full-ride scholarship, fully covered for four years and graduate. That will be cool to say in 20 or 30 years, that I was
one of the first people to shape this landscape. I think as technology evolves and more people
have access to internet and computers, we’re going to see esports grow to something that
the world has never seen.


Reader Comments

  1. I like this guy's reporting over the past year but he was a terrible choice for this video, very ignorant, great guy though.

  2. I have been gamer my whole life and it is my favorite hobby, heck that is where my user name comes from but I don't see what is so point of esports. I mean games are interactive medium that's what separates them from movies, TV shows etc I don't understand what is the point of watching someone play games? If you are a gamer you should want to play the games yourself. That's why I never understood popularity of Twitch and other similar services same as esports.

    Also I heard career of professional gamer is not really all sunshine and rainbows I mean you need to play one game all day long for 12+ hours per day in a house where your are living with you whole team so no privacy and that their career is short one. When your hobby becomes your job doesn't sounds enticing to me at all.

  3. Schools esports team?
    So now you can go to school to play video games?

    Esport is not athletics .
    Essort is not a sport.

  4. We are so excited about the world of Esports and have started a new enterprise for the amateur and college players called Esports Circus check us out at www.esportscircus.com

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