Mike Stobe / Stringer

Esports: Should They Really Be in the Sports Section?

August 02, 2019 - 4:53 pm

By Charlie O @Charlieo1320

Listen to your team news NOW.

Two weeks ago, the majority of the world had never heard of Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf. Now, almost everyone in the internet connected world knows that the 16-year old won $3 million by becoming the Fortnite World Cup solo champion. “Bugha” has been featured on major television shows whose viewers are asking themselves – “What is a Fortnite?”

As impressive as the $3 million top prize was – the total prize pool of $30 million for the tournament was even more “mind blowing”. Turner “Tfue” Tenney competed and finished 67th which was outside the rank to qualify for additional prize money. He did not care. Tenney pocketed $50,000 for just showing up at the event.

The Venue

The event was held at the Arthur Ashe Stadium at the USTA Billie King National Tennis Center in New York. Why you ask? The stadium has a retractable roof, so it is covered. It also seats over 23,000 fans which gives it a greater seating capacity than the world’s most famous arena – Madison Square Garden. The stadium was sold out for the weekend!

The video set up for the tournament was a virtual sensory overload.

Viewership

Epic Games – the parent company and promoter of the championship – released viewership numbers for the finals. In their post, the company revealed that 2.3 million viewers watched the finals on You Tube and Twitch.

Epic followed the viewership reveal with a reminder that those numbers did not include those who watched via Twitter, Facebook and within the game itself. With just the known numbers, the finals were the most watched gaming finals in history – excluding China.

Is this really sports?

Sports people think esports are the real deal. ESPN now has their own esports section. Leagues, team owners and players are looking to make alliances with game developers, promoters and players to cash in on what they know is going to be a payday.

NBA players Josh Hart and Reggie Jackson played in the Fortnite Pro-Am in June. Andre Drummond of the Pistons is a gamer. Pro Basketball has the NBA 2K League that features gaming teams from 21 of league’s franchises.

It’s about competition, strategy, hand-eye coordination and the will to win without having to be 7-feet tall and weigh 300 pounds. You can be 16-years old and be champion of the world with $3 million in the bank.

Who owns teams and leagues?

Let’s use just one example. Kroenke Sports & Entertainment owns the Los Angeles Rams, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Rapids, Arsenal F.C. and the Los Angeles Gladiators, an esports gaming team.

KS&E has now agreed to drop $30.25 million to buy the Echo Fox’s League of Legends Championship Series slot. They also own a slot in the Overwatch League which they purchased for $20 million.

This is a company that is driven by sports dollars. They obviously believe that big money is about to be had in esports.

Personal note

I had to make a choice at the California State Fair last week. I could either go to the Craft Exhibit Hall or checkout the esports center. I chose esports.

The day that I was there was just a demonstration day. The tournament to the “death” was scheduled for the next day. I settled down in a chair and started watching the action on the big screen. I began listening to the conversations between the players.

After a while, I picked up on the rhythm of the game and conversation. I started to become mesmerized by the action. Next, I was rooting for one of the players. Then, my cellphone went off and my wife wanted to know where I was. That ended my esports day.

It’s going to be huge

Let’s change that point. Esports are already huge, and they are only going to get bigger. Now that companies have proved they can sellout arenas for championships plus draw viewers on multiple platforms, promoters and advertisers will be standing in line for a chance host an event.

I can envision the next Fortnite World Cup being held at “Jerry’s House” (AT&T Stadium in Dallas) with 100,000 people in attendance.

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