As the year ends, we look back to 2011 and it’s easy to conclude, pro-gaming is now mainstream. E-sports is finally here for everybody on the planet not just in South Korea. I know it. You know it. With at least 71% of the US population alone playing a video game on various platforms, the chances that somebody you meet (from as young as 5 years old to the not so young 40 year olds regardless of sex) doesn’t know about pro-gaming is dwindling exponentially.
A Little History
When I first participated in the World Cyber Games back in 2001 (holy! That’s been a decade ago! Please don’t try to figure out my age…), I knew right then and there that e-sports had a chance to flourish outside of Korea. However, after more than 7 years of competing, I started thinking, “Maybe the only people who had the same thing I had in mind are the Samsung guys”… The scene didn’t grow the way I was hoping it to be, that’s to say the least.
Then came Blizzard’s LOOOOONG awaited sequel to the Godfather of real time strategy (RTS) games, Starcraft 2.
Although received mostly with praise, it was no question that the game divided a significant number of competitive gamers around the globe. Some didn’t make the switch to it thinking the game was still at its infancy and they were better off honing their skills on established games (Starcraft Brood War, Warcraft 3, Counterstrike, you name it…).
As time passed and a lot of game balances coming in, not to mention publicity (thanks to Blizzard’s own efforts through BlizzCon and Blizzard Worldwide Invitational as well as other e-sport events organizations continually pushing the game including Major League Gaming [MLG], Dreamhack, IEM, NASL, and of course the GSL), more and more gamers switched to the game (think WC3’s legends including Jang “Moon” Jae Ho and Manuel “Grubby” Schenkhuizen himself).
Maybe they’re thinking SC2 is something they can have a better chance at winning against the Koreans compared to Brood War where many have tried (think Greg “Idra” Fields of the US and Krzysztof ‘Draco’ Nalepka of Poland to name a few). Although still not at the same level as the Korean pro-gamers even in a relatively newer game, at least non-Koreans now have a chance at actually winning against the Kors as has been seen in various results as well as in terms of prize money earnings. Switching to SC2 pays off.
Leagues, Tournaments, Events and their Statistics
This year, e-sports events have grown far beyond anybody would have expected. Almost everybody wants to join the fun. Some of the household names that have jumped in to support e-sports include:
- Dr Pepper
- The list goes on! And on!
These are just some of the household brand names that are now getting impressions from the competitive gaming community in events like;
- World Cyber Games (WCG)
- Major League Gaming (MLG) Season
- Electronic Sports World Cup (ESWC)
- Electronic Sports League (ESL)
- Intel Extreme Masters (IEM)
- E-Sports League (ESL)
- Global Starcraft League (GSL)
- The International
- North American Star League (NASL)
- Blizzard Worldwide Invitation
- Yet again, the list goes on…
The winter version of Dreamhack alone got 1.7 million unique viewers coming in from the internet courtesy of Twitch.tv and the Swedish national TV paired with 20,948 live spectators. The finals for League of Legends’ (LoL) first season this year is said to have fetched 1.6 million online viewers as well. Lastly, the final stop of this year’s MLG season on the other hand recorded 241,000 viewers of their streamed games at one point as well as an attendance of 16,000 in Providence.
Putting these numbers in perspective, MLG’s figures alone beats traditional the likes of MTV, TBS, Commedy Central, and FX in terms of views. At least among 18-24 year olds.
Naturally, the prizes of these year’s e-sports events saw their highest in years. Here’s a small list of price pool money per event (outside of Korea):
|Event, Tournament, League||Game (Platform)||Price Pool|
|The Invitational||Dota 2 Beta (PC)||$1,000,000.00 (champion alone)|
|MLG Providence (finals)||Starcraft 2 (PC)||$50,000.00 (champion alone)|
|World Cyber Games (WCG)||Asphalt 6 (Android & iOS)||$40,000.00 (champion alone)|
|IEM / ESL||Counter-Strike 1.6 (PC)||$35,000.00 (champion alone)|
If we take into account the Korean events, GSL tournaments always come on top with $87,500.00 each for season champions the likes of NesTea, Mvp, MC, FrutDealer, Polt, MMA, and Jjakji.
Pro-Gamers, Earnings, and Comparisons
Right now, if you head over to http://sc2earnings.com/, you’ll instantly realize that someone has already broken the $250,000 record earnings in e-sports courtesy of the most dominant name in SC2 for 2011, Jeong “Mvp” Jong Hyeon. His total recorded prize money earnings (excluding endorsements and other sources of earnings) for the year is sitting pretty at $255,790.
Although Na’Vi won the biggest prize pool in a single event with $1,000,000.00 at the DOTA 2 tournament dubbed “The International”, since there are 6 gamers in their team, each get around $166,666.66 a piece of that’s divided equally. Still a little low compared to the top earning SC2 players of 2011.
Comparing these numbers to traditional sports earnings of last year according to ESPN, it’s easy to see that pro-gamers aren’t earning nearly as high as boxing stars like Manny Pacquiao or baseball legend Alex Rodriguez (both getting an estimated $32,000,000 purse for 2010). However, the pro-gamers earnings bested a number of other traditional sports including billiards (men and women), bowling (men and women), beach volleyball (women), surfing (women), eating, Sled dog, and triathlon for men and women. These traditional sports’ top earnings are all below $250,000 for 2010.
This year also saw a massive influx of women pro-gamers the likes of Linda Liao (Starcraft 2), Kim “Eve” Shee-Yoon (Starcraft 2), and Kat “III Mystic III” Gunn (Halo)—who won the 2010 WCG Ultimate Gamer reality show. Bring on the girls!
E-Sports Media Coverage for 2011
Needless to say, the internet has been the most reliable medium in brining pro-gaming to where it is now courtesy of GomTV.net of the GSL, Twitch.TV, and of course Own3d.TV. However, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been coverage from traditional media like television and printed media.
The likes of ESPN.com and Forbes.com have been covering the scene in 2011 more so than in previous years. There are a number of documentaries that came out this year as well including that of Lim Yo-Hwan featured in Boxer’s Wing Ep 1, and Episode 2, the 3 part documentary about a group of Street Fighter gamers titled “Run It Back: The Road To SoCal Regionals”, another one about Street Fighter titled I Got Next, and there’s even one for competitive Tetris titled “Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters”.
This year also gave us “Barcraft”—a pub or bar where patrons can watch e-sports streams much like the pubs where patrons can watch traditional sports on TV while enjoying their favorite beer. There are around 24 of these to date and they are located across the globe.
What’s to Come for Pro-Gaming in 2012
Although the viewmanship alone isn’t nowhere compared to the likes of the Superbowl, its popularity is still undeniably even surpassing other traditional professional sports like volleyball, bowling, billiards, and many more. That said, 2012 will naturally bring BIGGER EVERYTHING for the industry. Just check out some of these lined up for next year;
- $5M for LoL Season 2
- Battlefield 3 $1.6M
- EA sports $3M tourney in 2012
To boot, here are a couple of the films that will come out featuring pro-gaming;
Pretty sure there are more media that’ll be featuring e-sports in general and that’ll surely make things even more exciting.
Hopefully, the trend will start spreading to South East Asia as well. Although they have a healthy e-sports scene, they are just not as big as scene in North America or Europe has become to date. For sure with tycoons like Stanly Ho around, if given the attention and investment it needs, things will be a lot more exciting on that part of the globe.