eSports: Competitive Gameplay Levels Up
Whilst many thought last weekend’s major sporting event was the 2015 Rugby World Cup Final, another tournament with a substantial global following also took place: the 2015 League of Legends World Championship final, one of the largest events in the current eSports calendar. eSports; or competitive gaming; sees organised tournaments based around popular video game franchises, with professional sponsorships by leading multi-national corporations, such as NVIDIA and Red Bull. These offer sizeable prize pools that draw in competitors.
Million Dollar Industry
An ever-developing enterprise, eSports has seen total prize money surpass $50 million already this year, from an estimated 3,500 tournaments. As the prize money has grown, so too have the viewership figures, with dedicated streaming sites such as Twitch and the recently launched YouTube Gaming offering a suitable
platform to potentially deliver eSports to the mass market. Indeed, Juniper’s latest research forecasts eSports viewership to accelerate from 133 million this year, to over 310 Million by 2020.
Illegal Activity Threatens Growth
A significant hurdle is faced by eSports at present; the industry wishes to be recognised as a professional sport, yet it appears to play host to a number of controversies. At the forefront currently is the illegal betting and match-fixing which resulted in eSports bookmaker Unikrn implementing an integrity certification program as of the 21st October.
"As eSports reaches a tipping point of mainstream acceptance, the legitimacy of match results is more paramount than ever," Unikrn CEO Rahul Sood said. "Advertisers, investors and fans depend on it, and that is why we're launching a collaborative system to ensure competitive integrity and anti-cheating across all major competitions."
Unikrn’s stance should go some way towards allaying fears over match fixing, with concerns justified in a year which has seen a number of players reprimanded for match fixing. Notably a number of professional players were banned by Valve earlier in the year, after matches were thrown on the North American eSports circuit.