As the global esports boom continues apace, the term finds itself increasingly moving beyond its formative definition pertaining to competitive video gaming. This is in evidence from many directions, such as the ways in which the classic tournament game chess has begun to appear in connection to the term. Chess, a long running competitive title, and one officially considered a sport by the Olympic committee, has rarely experienced such popular appeal as it does at present. Much of this can be laid at the feet of the success of Netflix’s original drama The Queen’s Gambit, which depicts a fictionalised re-retelling of the life of 60s chess prodigy, Beth Harmon. Coming out as it did in 2021, the spike in popularity it evoked in the game drove many viewers to popular esports platforms to witness streamers playing the game. This has had the unexpected effect of leading to chess finding itself as one of the fastest growing esports globally in 2022.
Esports Teams Expanding
Other classic games have been increasingly entangling themselves with esports. Poker, for example, has become a major force in modern esports with teams better known for playing League of Legends, such as Team Vitality, becoming increasingly involved in online competitions of this brick-and-mortar mainstay. As the lines between poker and esports continue to blur, industry specialists PokerNews have witnessed a marked increase in their coverage of topics pertaining to the global esports community. Furthermore, as prominent poker players increasingly converge on esports streaming platform Twitch they have begun to impact the way the Amazon-owned platform presents and markets itself to demographics outside of its core PC gaming base.
For example, the average age among fans of poker is 35+, which stands in contrast to the esports community which tends to skew younger, with an average age of 26. As poker continues to integrate itself with esports, not only is the size of its global audience changing, but so is its composition. This is especially significant given older spectators are both less likely to have had formative experiences around video games in the same way as those belonging to Generation Z, and are more accustomed to traditional sports media. This can only lead to more investment and sponsorship flowing into popular esports competitions from new market sectors over time.
Even major sports franchisees are looking for ways to break into the thriving esports scene. From state-side leagues such as the NBA and NFL, to EPL squads and major European football clubs. In terms of football, many teams have begun to build out official esports teams for competing in the FIFAe World Cup. Though others, such as FC Copenhagen, PSG and Schalke 04, have taken a decidedly more proactive stance by putting their names to teams competing in core esports titles from DOTA 2 to Fortnite. As interest and speculation grows, we can expect to see more segments of the traditional sporting world test the waters of the esports community and explore ways to increase their presence in this growing space.