The Role of Esports in the Gaming Industry

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BetMGM Sep 12, 2023, 11:13 AM

For many years, if you wanted to win money playing games in person or online, you’d need to visit a traditional or online casino. However, today there are dozens of games with esports scenes that offer players all around the world the opportunity to walk away with cash, as well as potentially lucrative careers.

There may be those of you who are wondering, “What are esports?” These are the next level of competitive video game tournaments. Esports takes the hobby of competitive video games out of small venues with dozens of spectators and places the events in massive arenas, with thousands of people watching in person and even more watching online around the globe.

The Rise of Esports in the 1990s and Early 2000s

No matter the game, there have always been people who have wanted to take their skills to the next level and show the world that they were the best. Early adopters of competitive video gaming were trendsetters of what would become a global entertainment powerhouse, with many of these early gamers being just as dedicated as many aspiring professional athletes. They spent hours mastering their favorite games and competing against other players in small competitions.

As gaming grew more popular and shed its “only for nerds” image, the competitive scene for many video games in the mid to late 1990s grew larger and larger. Even if they hadn’t adopted the word “esports,” tournaments such as the Nintendo World Championships, the Red Annihilation Quake Tournament (which saw one lucky winner walk away with a Ferrari) and the Korea StarCraft League all laid the foundation for what would become the esports industry today. 

Exploding Into the Mainstream in the 2010s

During the 1990s, there were many hundreds of video games, all trying to get the attention (and money) of gamers around the globe. However, there are a few titles that appeared in the late 1990s and early 2000s that exploded in popularity and took competitive gaming to a whole other level. 

Whether it’s one-on-one fighting games, team-based strategy games or squad-based shooting games, all of these experiences have one thing in common: they all focus on competitive play against other players. These competitive games and gaming franchises include:

  • Call of Duty
  • Counter-Strike
  • Dota 2
  • Halo
  • League of Legends
  • StarCraft
  • Street Fighter
  • Tekken

Another major factor that helped most of these titles (excluding early fighting games) is that they also offered online play, which made it easy for people to compete. All you had to do was log on and start playing. The digital availability helped expose thousands of players to an entirely new world of gaming that was previously only accessible to the most dedicated players and sparked the desire in many to win.

As competitive gaming and the esports scene grew, it was not uncommon for an esports tournament to offer not just hundreds of thousands but millions of dollars in prize money. With so much on the line, many started to compete with the hope of claiming some of the glory and prize money.

The Future of Esports Beyond 2020

While there was no doubt that esports exploded onto the scene in the 2010s, it does appear that the bubble might have burst. In 2023, numerous large esports teams and organizations, such as FaZe Clan, 100 Thieves, The Guard, Immortals, OpTic Gaming and many more, announced that they were restructuring or laying off employees. 

After about a decade of rapid investment, it seems that a more financially risk-averse approach to esports is becoming the norm. This is likely due to several issues, including investors losing confidence, sponsors not seeing adequate returns and excessive hiring, all of which affect the bottom line of esports organization.

However, gamers shouldn’t give up hope. While the competitive space may have been shaken a little, the esports industry is far from dead. As with many other gaming industry trends, things will likely scale back to a more sustainable level, with fewer, more high-quality games coming to dominate the esports space.

After all, many older gamers will remember how the gaming industry was shaken to its core in 1983, with many believing the industry was basically done for after Atari imploded. But today, the industry carries on as a $250 billion-dollar behemoth, bringing fun, excitement and, yes, thousands of dollars in prize money to dedicated gamers worldwide.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.