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The Game Awards 2023: The Rise of eSports from Start to Finish

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The rise of eSports

In the ever-evolving landscape of entertainment, few industries have witnessed a meteoric rise quite like eSports. What once started as a niche in the gaming world has now grown into a global sensation, captivating both amateur and professional players with its competitive events, life-changing cash prizes, and viewership figures in the hundreds of millions. Domain and hosting experts Fasthosts has compiled a brief overview of the rise of eSports, and competitive gaming throughout the years, and where the future may take the industry.

The Start of Competitive Gaming

eSports, at its core, revolves around competitive video gaming, and has experienced exponential growth over the past five decades. The earliest known gaming competition stems back to 1972, when Stanford University hosted a contest featuring the science fiction rocket game ‘Spacewar’. The event – orchestrated by sports reporter Stewart Brand – showcased the potential of video games as an “exhilarating spectator sport”, setting the stage for what was to come.

The Slow but Steady Rise

For several decades, the popularity of eSports experienced a gradual rise. In the pre-internet era, arcade tournaments provided the battleground for players, with magazines and record books recognising top players’ achievements. The 1990s marked a turning point as gaming tournaments began to gain traction, offering increasingly substantial prize pools. The technological advancements in video game consoles, and internet and PC gaming paved the way for a prosperous decade for the industry. At the end of the 90s we saw the internet cafe boom where young players would meet and play together in PC cafes, which was the start of the strong youth social gaming culture you see today.

The New Millennium

It was the early 2000s that witnessed the true birth of eSports as leagues and tournaments started to take shape around iconic titles like Counter-Strike, StarCraft, and Warcraft III. In 2001, the first World Cyber Games was held in Seoul. The tournament featured several popular games and attracted over 174,000 participants from 17 countries, making for an unexpected global success. In 2005, the CPL World Tour or Cyberathlete Professional League became the first event to have a prize pool offering over $1 million, demonstrating the start of life changing prizes that go hand in hand with competitive gaming.

Streaming Platforms: The Catalyst for Growth

From 2010 onwards, the world witnessed the revolutionary impact of online streaming platforms like Twitch.tv and Youtube Gaming, leading to skyrocketing eSports viewership figures. When Twitch launched, the ‘League of Legends’ world championship viewership figures went from 1.7 million in 2011 to 8.2 million in 2012, and to 32 million in 2013.

These streaming platforms connected fans worldwide, allowing them to tune into live events from home. The large viewing figures, advertising, and sponsorship opportunities led to investors starting their own teams, and household game developers creating leagues and tournaments. It became standard for eSports events to attract millions of viewers, and the landscape of competitive gaming had been transformed.

The Summit

In 2015, eSports reached a defining moment with The International 2015: Dota 2 Championships. The prize pool offered a staggering $18 million, breaking records and solidifying eSports’ place on the global stage. This marked a monumental shift, proving that tournaments could rival traditional sports events in terms of both prize money and profitability.

The New Decade: eSports Takes Centre Stage

As the calendar turned to the 2020s, eSports entered a new era. The decade began with some of the largest tournaments in history, attracting millions of spectators and providing the largest prize pools seen to date such as The 2021 International Dota 2 Championships which took place in Bucharest Romania, offering a $40,018,400.00 prize pool – the largest prize at the time.

By 2020, it had become increasingly common to see the term “professional eSports player” conceptualising the individuals dedicating their lives to competitive gaming, undergoing strict routines and training in the unique journey of becoming the world’s next best gaming athlete.

The Future

At present, the most-viewed tournaments are impressive spectacles in their own right, with titles like ‘Free Fire World Series’, ‘League of Legends’, and ‘Mobile Legends: Bang Bang’ drawing millions of viewers. Looking to the future, in August 2023, Saudi Arabian tournament organiser Gamers8 ran their ‘The Land of Heroes’ tournament with a colossal prize of $45 million dollars, a figure that we will see constantly being pushed higher in tournaments in following years. And according to BeyonGames.biz, the eSports market is estimated to grow at 21.81% between 2022 and 2027, with the size of the market expected to increase by $3,515.1 million.

The journey of competitive gaming from its humble beginnings to its current global standing is a testament to its enduring appeal and cultural impact. With its exhilarating competition and substantial rewards, eSports has become a true force in the entertainment world. As the industry continues to innovate and evolve, one thing remains clear: this isn’t just a passing trend. It’s a phenomenon that has permanently transformed the way we engage with and celebrate competitive gaming.

eSports

Gen.G and University of Kentucky Bring Back Award Winning Conference “Campus Takeover” Designed to Drive the Future of Collegiate Esports

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Global esports and gaming organization Gen.G and the University of Kentucky (UK) are bringing back their award winning collegiate esports industry conference, Campus Takeover, on March 30 and April 6. This two-day event will bring together esports professionals with students and administrators from different universities. UK continues to pave the way as an esports ecosystem leader in the SEC and Midwest region.

Campus Takeover Day 1 is a student-focused event leading up to the professional conference, and will be live-streamed at twitch.tv/universityofky on March 30 starting at 4:30 PM EST. Campus Takeover Day 2, the flagship professional conference, will be hosted at the Don & Cathy Jacobs Science Building on the University of Kentucky campus on April 6, starting at 10:00 AM EST.

“Since we started this event, we had a responsibility to uphold what future students expect of the University of Kentucky when it comes to their budding esports careers. There’s a lot expected about the future of gaming and esports, and we want to make sure our students are well equipped to be that expected change for years to come,” Heath Price, Associate Chief Information Officer at University of Kentucky, said.

Additionally, many esports professionals hailing from different segments of esports business will participate in various panels during Campus Takeover. The panels and discussions will cover a bevy of topics, including how to maximize your time when looking for new jobs, a conversation around esports, influencers, business, and video games, a look at intersectionality in games, and much more. Other clubs and programs will also be welcome to have tables within the Atrium during Campus Takeover, so even newer students get to see everything UK has to offer.

“University of Kentucky has been our long term collegiate partner; their investment in this community allows us to have a small hand in making sure the future of gaming and esports is secure. We all want to see this industry thrive, and we hope Campus Takeover is a stepping stone for other schools to form their own ways to develop the collegiate esports ecosystem,” Martin Kim, Chief Revenue Officer at Gen.G, said.

Campus Takeover was recognized at the 2023 Esports & Gaming Business Summit Tempest Awards, where it won the award for the Collegiate Esports Program of the Year.

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ESL FACEIT Group and Znipe Esports reveal FACEIT Watch: A cutting-edge, new digital streaming platform from esports fans for esports fans

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Designed for the competitive gaming community and now open to all, FACEIT Watch is created to disrupt the esports content distribution model by putting users in control of their viewing experience.

ESL FACEIT Group (EFG), the leading esports and video game entertainment company, has unveiled FACEIT Watch, the new streaming platform built by esports fans for esports fans. Free and available to all, FACEIT Watch is designed to put fans in control of their viewing experience, with features that include a multi-perspective view, live chat, profile access and FACEIT point in-game rewards.

Designed in collaboration with Znipe Esports, a technical partner, FACEIT Watch marks the first major product launch from FACEIT that moves beyond gameplay by offering its audience a unique streaming experience tailored to the user.

Featuring a unique multi-perspective view selector where users can watch their favorite player’s perspective directly next to the main event stream, it enables esports fans to pause and rewind, with access to killcams and live-generated replays of key moments and adjust the volume of caster and multi-perspective sounds, as well as disable spoilers, letting them personalize how they engage with FACEIT Watch streaming content.

Earlier this year, FACEIT announced its collaboration with Call of Duty 2024 Challengers Season and partnership with Overwatch, that aim to grow the community of competitive gamers and fans on its platform. The launch of FACEIT Watch will provide an unparalleled viewing experience and create a new way for users to connect and enjoy content with friends, bringing fans closer together. By enabling users to watch their favorite players’ perspectives and offering tools that mean they will never miss a play again, FACEIT Watch establishes a new environment where esports enthusiasts can discuss and debate, celebrate victories, and forge lasting connections.

Our mission at EFG is to create worlds beyond gameplay. FACEIT Watch represents a new chapter for the platform as it moves beyond the ultimate competitive environment to play and provides players multiple ways to engage with their favorite games,” said Warren Leigh, Senior Vice President of Product, Digital Platforms, ESL FACEIT Group. “On the FACEIT platform, we’ve had unparalleled insight into the needs and nuances of this community for over a decade, and, together with Znipe Esports, we’ve designed FACEIT Watch to meet them. We look forward to hearing their feedback after Katowice and continuing to develop and optimize Watch with them.”

Johan Ryman, CEO, Znipe Esports, added: “We are honored and excited about being a part of this initiative from EFG and their commitment towards the esports community and looking forward to our combined efforts to create best in class esports streaming.”

Over 100,000 viewers have tuned in so far on FACEIT Watch during the play-ins of EFG’s flagship event, IEM Katowice, which culminates this weekend and will see the world’s best Counter-Strike 2 teams battle it out for a share of the $1,000,000 prize pool.

FACEIT Watch is now available to all at FACEIT.com. Tune in to see the Grand Final of IEM Katowice on the 11th of February on FACEIT. Watch at 17:00 CET.

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eSports

PAGODA Snacks Named the New “Official Egg Roll” of Riot Games’ League Championship Series

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PAGODA Snacks has entered into a partnership with Riot Games, the company behind the leading global esports property League of Legends.

PAGODA Snacks will be featured as the “Official Egg Roll” of LCS and offer fans the perfect game-time snack through special activations, product drops, and giveaways throughout the LCS season.

The LCS is the preeminent professional North American esport and currently the fourth most-viewed professional sports league in North America for gamers in the 18-34 years-old age demographic. PAGODA Snacks will be integrated throughout LCS’ 2024-26 season events connecting LCS fans with the perfect go-to snacks to refuel.

“We know more time in the kitchen means less time to playing and streaming League of Legends. According to YouGov, approximately 50% of next-gen consumers feel as though their lifestyles do not leave enough time to prepare food. That’s where our craveable and convenient lineup of PAGODA Snacks comes to the rescue. From our crispy egg rolls loaded with freshly cut vegetables and authentic seasoning to our Crab Rangoon filled with real crab meat and cream cheese paired with a sweet chili sauce, we offer quick, easy-to-prepare but still delicious snacks for LCS players and fans to refuel and supercharge their gaming sessions,” Monica Ball, marketing manager for PAGODA Snacks, said.

“We’re thrilled to have PAGODA Snacks join the LCS as our newest partner and further as the ‘Official Egg Roll’ of the League Championship Series. There’s no better food to fuel our fan experience than egg rolls and I know LCS fans will be hyped to add PAGODA Snacks to their go-to snack lineup,” LCS Commissioner Mark Zimmerman said.

As the “Official Egg Roll” of LCS, PAGODA Snacks will be a part of the LCS broadcasts with a “Let Him Cook” segment that will spotlight the best plays and moments of the day from professional players.

Additional PAGODA Snacks broadcast integration will come with the “Put the Egg Rolls In” Tech Pause, where LCS fans will have the perfect opportunity to fuel up and grab a bite to eat.

Throughout the partnership, fans should keep an eye out for additional PAGODA Snacks activations and touchpoints like exclusive drops and promotions so they can celebrate the season with LCS’ “Official Egg Roll”.

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