Are eSports the Next Big Thing? Maybe Not


The eSports industry has seen incredible amounts of growth and investment over the past few years.  Overwatch and H1Z1:King of the Kill will soon have their own professional leagues.  Turner’s Counter Strike: Global Offensive ELEAGUE has also seen increased legitimacy. The league has even faced a lawsuit from sports apparel powerhouse Adidas, which means that people are now seeing that eSports have influence.  Some eSports have even been considered by the Olympic Summit for inclusion in the 2024 Paris Games.

Considering all of these new developments, it may be hard to imagine a future that sees the industry’s growth stunted. While we would all love to believe in the future of eSports, there are plenty of issues that we must push past to ensure its success.

Legitimacy Issues

One of the biggest issues is the lack of public recognition of the legitimacy of various eSports as professional activities.  Luckily, some individuals and companies do see the value in the industry and have made its profitable investment potential known.   Just this year, Cloud9 received 25 million in Series A investment.  Still, everyday I talk to individuals who do not understand the enormity of eSports. It amazes me how many people do not even understand the concept of competitive gaming.

Video games have long been seen as geeky time-wasters.  In order for us to alter this stigma, we must put effort into proving how competitive video games can actually be.  Most people do not understand the reflexes, dexterity, knowledge, and mental strength necessary to be a professional gamer.  Until people realize this, they will not take competitive gaming seriously.

Management Issues

My focus of study at university is sports management.  Besides a couple of professors at my institution, nobody in the program knows about the competitive gaming industry.  This is, in my opinion, a serious issue. If not sports managers, then who is going to manage the eSports industry?

Gamers who happen to have professions in relevant industries run the majority of eSports events and organizations.  This is not a sustainable business practice. While there is no question that the pioneers of this industry have done an adequate job, we will not see any sustainability unless management professionals begin entering the industry in larger numbers.  We need collaboration between the techies and event managers to have well-run events.  In order to sustain more viable organizations, we should foster collaboration between professional managers and players.

Lack of Governance

Additionally, a lack of an umbrella governing body for both professional and collegiate eSports causes inconsistencies in competition regulations.  There are currently a wide array of governing bodies that do not seem to be working together well enough.  Instead, new organizations form and subsequently fizzle out without any lasting impact.

The National Association of Collegiate eSports (NACE) and the Electronic Gaming Federation (EGF) are currently the separate governing bodies hoping for control over collegiate eSports.  The NCAA is now also vying for sole governance of collegiate gaming.  If one of these organizations does not establish monopoly governance soon, the industry may fall apart.

It’s Hard on the Eyes

As silly as it may sound, watching video games on the television can be straining on the eyes of anyone who does not typically play video games.  Not only is it hard to follow such quick movement, but it is also difficult to focus on the harsh tones in video games.

I was back home a few weeks ago and ESPN was broadcasting a Rocket League match.  My dad, being the sports connoisseur that he is, decided to leave the match on and try to follow it (even after mentioning how ridiculous it was).  He was enjoying the match for the first ten or fifteen minutes until he determined that he needed to put his glasses on.  After doing so, he again complained a few minutes later about eye strain and to my dismay promptly flipped the channel.

To us gamers, viewing competitive gaming will likely not be an issue.  This may be an issue, however, to those who are not used to the visuals in video games.  Yes, I agree that we should not spend so much time catering to traditional sports fans. For competitive gaming to become viable, however, we need to make the broadcasts more accessible.

Violence Issues

Many people take issue with the prevalence of violence in video games. There have been countless studies on the negative effects of playing and watching video games.  While none of these studies hold up, parents and professionals alike still fear the consequences of video games.

In this year’s Olympic Summit, violence was cited as the number one reason why the Olympics may not include eSports.  Sure, this still leaves room for games like F1 and Rocket League,  but the fan bases for games such as DOTA 2 and League of Legends make for much more viable markets.

As gaming professional, we face incredible barriers to the growth of the field.  The industry will not be sustainable unless we make the necessary adjustments.  What do you think? Did we miss any big issues? Let’s hash it out in the comments below.

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