What are eSports?

Typical eSports aRENA

Typical eSports aRENA

eSports (meaning electronic sports) is a competition, specifically where players compete by playing video games. Competitors in eSports are considered athletes. eSports can be played via computers, video games consoles and even arcade machines.

eSports differs from competitive gaming in that money is involved whereas in competitive gaming, this is not always the case. In larger eSports tournaments, entire arenas fill to watch teams compete in eSports.

The global eSports market generated US$325 million of revenue in 2015 and is expected to make $493 million in 2016; the global eSports audience in 2015 was 226 million people
— newzoo

One of the defining traits of eSports is that competitors share a space in which they are competing head to head, ensuring that the gaming environment is as neutral as possible (especially due to varying internet speeds which can cause lag). Another facet of eSports is that the playing devices are always always networked, whether locally or online.

Features of eSports


Many competitions take place online, especially for smaller tournaments and exhibition games but can provide advantages or disadvantages dependent upon the player's connection. Competitions are also often conducted over a local area network or LAN, this is the preferred method for competition. The advantages are the network has less lag and higher quality. Because competitors must be physically present, LANs help ensure fair play by allowing direct scrutiny of competitors.

Spectator mode

Spectator mode allows players to watch the game from a teammate's or competing player's point of view, to a modified interface that gives spectators access to information even the players may not have. The spectator view is designed in a way in order to prevent either teams in a game from gaining a competitive advantage.

eSports Team

eSports Team

Team Celebration

Team Celebration

Brief History of eSports

Video game tournaments are not new. Even so far back as the 1980s, video game tournaments have existed. Unlike the games of the late '90s to today, tournaments in the '80s didn't compete head to head, but for a high score. This was predominantly because of the nature of design of arcade games. High score competitions for games such as Pac-Mac and Donkey Kong still exist today, but are not the type of games typically found in the eSports of today.

eSports essentially started with the rise of PC gaming in the 1990s, despite the preexisting video game tournaments of before. A "Quake" tournament called Red Annihilation in 1997 is perhaps the first true instance of eSports. From there, many more tournaments were held within the same vein as Red Annihilation. For much of the 90s and even the early part of the next decade, eSports was primarily focused on First Person Shooters (FPS), but slowly, sports games and arcade style games made headway. The biggest increase came from the real-time strategy (RTS) genre with the rise of StarCraft: Broodwar.

The 2000s brought tournaments with serious money and the rise of video game leagues specializing in specific games on PC and consoles alike. FPS and RTS still dominate the eSports gaming arena, but there are still areas for other genres. In recent years eSports have seen a boom because of MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena), which are a extension of RTS games except with the ability to control only one single character at a time. There are several full-time leagues focusing on eSports and specific games, complete with championships, trophies and of course prize money.

Types of eSports Games


Street Fighter - One of the longest running eSports games, particularly for the fighting genre.

Super Smash Bros. - Growing in popularity with every generation, Super Smash Bros. has been featured within Major League Gaming and Evolution Championship Series.

Marvel vs. Capcom - Played at the Evolution Championship Series, Mavel vs. Capcome features characters from Capcom games fighting against Marvel heroes and villians


Quake - The first highly competitive and eSport FPS, credited for the rise of the FPS genre but also eSports

Counter-Strike - Beginning Half-Life mod that is arguably the most well respected FPS ever.

Call of Duty - Joined the eSports fray with the popularity of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in 2008

Halo - Halo 5 is the newest game in the series,  entirely built around being eSports, featuring a wide array of competitive game modes.

Battlefield - Played primarily on the PC and sparingly on consoles.

Overwatch - One of the newest titles, Overwatch is purely competitive featuring no single player and wide variety of character types.

Rainbow Six: Siege - Another game like Overwatch, built completely for online competitive, but extremely tactical compared to other FPS on this list.


StarCraft - Another game credited with the rise in popularity of eSports, the ultimate example of a competitive RTS.

Warcraft III - Still popular outside of North America, but never finding much ground in terms of a featured championship.


FIFA - Recent tie-ins to the FIFA World Cup has raised it's competition status with leagues popping up in Europe specifically.

Madden - Always competitive only recently have money sponsored tournaments arisen.

Rocket League - Still in it's infancy, Rocket League recently joined Major League Gaming. 


Dota / Dota 2 - Another mod (of Warcraft III) to reach incredible heights, Dota 2 is perhaps the most popular eSport to be played.

League of Legends - Similar to Dota, a mod of Warcraft III, League of Legends championships have some of the the largest pots in all of eSports.

Heroes of the Storm - The championship was broadcast on ESPN 2.

Popularity of eSports

It has been estimated that approximately 71.5 million people worldwide watch eSports.  The increase has come from the availability and improved quality of online streaming platforms such as Twitch.tv. Twitch also streams any gamer who has an account making accessibility simple. Twitch is vitally important to the  growth and promotion of eSports competitions. Major League Gaming has reported viewership that is approximately 85% male and 15% female, with a majority of viewers between the ages of 18 and 34 (via GameSpot). 

The global eSports market generated US$325 million of revenue in 2015 and is expected to make $493 million in 2016; the global eSports audience in 2015 was 226 million people (via newzoo).

eSports Crowd

eSports Crowd

The Fans of eSports

Who would want to watch someone play video games in person? It's a common detraction from non-fans of eSports and with very little "action" on stage, it's a fair one. Due to the nature of eSports, the action unfolds on the screen, through the character, not the actual player. However,  the live experience of watching a video game is centered around the arena's simultaneous broadcasts. That means there’s always something for the audience to listen to,  or watch, which integrates well with the gameplay. When a player shows determination or any myriad of emotions after a big win, loss or a great play, the crowd experiences something they wouldn't have when just watching over a stream, raw excitement.

Biggest eSport Competitions

The International

This  DOTA 2 tournament has the largest prize pool of all the tournaments at over $20M, with almost $10M going to first place. Held in Seattle, WA.

Major League Gaming

Based out of NY, NY, MLG has been around since 2004, most recently featuring games such as Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Smite, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Dota 2 and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.

Evolution Championship Series

EVO is held in Vegas and has been around since 1996 and features games such as Street Fighter V and both Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.