E-Sports: An Entertainment Revolution

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E-Sports is a rapidly growing phenomenon revolving around organized video game competitions, especially between professional players. E-Sports has a history that started over 40 years ago; within the last several years we've seen exponential growth in the size of the market and the number of tournaments. There are numerous tournaments held and many large organizations involved. The E-Sports ecosystem involves multiple stakeholders, including the users, distributors, streaming services, game publishers, sponsors, tournament organizers, professional gamers, and advertisers and brands. There are also various emerging businesses and markets which are not as clearly defined, including gambling, botnets, elo boosting, and fantasy E-Sports, as well as a growing online community. E-Sports has brought on a number of legal and ethical concerns involving drug usage, content ownership, and gaming addiction. Social issues involving the discrimination of women in E-Sports have also been trending.

It is important to understand that E-Sports is a rapidly growing market that already has hundreds of millions of viewers and customers around the globe. There are numerous opportunities for businesses to capitalize.

League of Legends 2014 World Championship[1].



League of Legends 2013 World Championship[1].


1. noun; a competitive tournament of video games, especially among professional gamers[2].

2. A word used by professional video games players in an attempt to justify and prove that playing video games is, in fact, sport. They do this in order to make themselves feel better for having been **** at real sports throughout their lives[3].


To understand the controversy surrounding E-Sports, it is important that we first understand: What is a sport?

Sport: Noun; a contest or game in which people do certain physical activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other[4].

There is a lot of controversy regarding the labeling of playing video games as a sport. Some argue that the growth in the popularity of E-Sports is a justification for designating some games as sports. On the other side of the argument, people state that video games will never reach the status of “true sports”[5]. While it is a controversial topic, there are valid opinions to support both sides. Some other questions that may need to be considered before making a decision is whether other ‘non-physical’ competitive activities can be regarded as sports. Scrabble is argued by some to be a sport[6]. Poker is arguably a sport and even televised on national sports television networks[7]. In early 2015, the Korean Olympic Committee accredited competitive gaming as a Tier 2 sport[8]. Korea is the first country to acknowledge the gaming community as having a size capable of joining the Olympics.

The Gartner Hype Cycle

The Gartner Hype Cycle evaluates the adoption of technologies and applications and provides a graphic representation[9]. While E-Sports are not evaluated on Gartner's 2014 report, they would fall within the innovation trigger phase of adoption. At this point, the concept of E-Sports is still an emerging trend which is expected to continue growing rapidly.

Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2014[10].


The Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics was held at Stanford.[11].

Early History

The earliest known video game competition was the Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics, held at Stanford University in 1972. The grand prize was a year's subscription to Rolling Stone magazine[12].

In 1980, Atari established competitive gaming as a mainstream hobby by holding the Space Invaders Championship. This was the first large scale competition, involving over 10,000 US participants. The event had lots of press and hundreds of articles were published about competitive gaming and the Space Invaders Championship, creating public awareness of E-Sports[13].

A high score record-keeping organization called Twin Galaxies emerged in 1981 and kept video game records within Guinness World Records. They formed the US National Video game team in 1983, which would compete at various events[14].

Soon enough, E-Sports began showing up in popular media. From 1980 onward, E-Sports was a frequent topic in newspapers and magazines. There were numerous television programs that focused on competitive video games. One of the first was Starcade, which aired from 1982 to 1984 and centred on contestants attempting to beat each other's high scores on arcade games[15]. Another well known television program was Video & Arcade Top 10, which ran from 1991 to 2006[16]. Video games were even showing up as topics in feature films like Tron[17].

Netrek allowed 16 players to join a game remotely.[18].

Age of Internet

In 1988, Netrek became a popular game. It involved 16 players working together to pilot a spaceship and attack other planets. What made Netrek special is that it was the first online E-Sports game. It allowed all 16 players from various locations to play the same game together[19]. The ability to play together while being in different physical locations was a huge step towards the growth of future E-Sports.

Nintendo sponsored and organized the Nintendo World Championships in 1990 and toured across the United States holding competitions. Prizes started to become more significant at this point. Nintendo awarded winners in each age group with $10,000 US savings bonds, a 1990 Geo Metro Convertible, a 40" TV, as well as a trophy[20]. Blockbuster also held their own World Game Championships through the 1990s[21].


Number of tournaments in the 2000s[22]
Size of prize pools increasing over the 2000s[22]

Tournament Growth

The number and scale of tournaments increased rapidly in the 2000s. Prize pools have continued to grow exponentially, and they now constitute a significant amount of money available on the table for competitive gamers. In 2000, there was a little over $300,000 in prize money in all of E-Sports. By 2012, the prize money available worldwide was over $10 million [23].

E-Sports Genres

The vast majority of E-Sports games fall within five major genres. Most professionals tend to stay within a single genre when gaming. There are certain games within each genre which have had significant impacts on professional gaming.

  • Fighting: Fighting games were the first type to be played in professional E-Sports tournaments[24]. This genre is defined by games like Street Fighter[25], Super Smash Bros.[26], and Mortal Kombat[27].
  • Sports: Video games based on actual physical competitions fall under the sports genre. Games like NASCAR[28] and FIFA[29] are popular titles for E-Sports events. NASCAR currently hosts an annual competition for their affiliated game[30].
  • First Person Shooter: FPS games can be individual or team based; they simulate gun battles in a first person perspective. Doom was released in 1993[31] and was one of the first popular games which defined the FPS genre and helped it become a competitive genre in E-Sports. Many popular games and series followed, including Quake[32], Counter-Strike[33], Call of Duty[34], Halo[35], and Battlefield[36], most of which are still heavily played recreationally and in tournaments today.
  • Real Time Strategy: RTS games do not progress in turns and involve using limited resources to build units and defeat opponents who are trying to do the same[37]. StarCraft played a foundational role in the establishment of E-Sports and remains one of the most popular series in the industry today[38]. Other popular RTS games include Warcraft[39] and Age of Empires[40].
  • Multi-player Online Battle Arena: MOBA games began as a spin-off from RTS games, but soon evolved to become a genre of their own. They involve controlling a single character as part of a team[41]. The Defense of the Ancients franchise began as a user modification to Warcraft III, which quickly rose in popularity and was adopted by the game publisher Valve[42]. One of the most popular games in E-Sports and MOBA games today is League of Legends[43].

Of the five genres, FPS, RTS, and MOBA games are more predominant in E-Sports today. MOBA games are arguably the most popular due to their free-to-play models which allow gameplay with no cost to purchase the game, unlike most games in other genres[44].

FPS games involve shooting-based gameplay from the shooter's point of view.[45]

Evolution of Competitive Gaming

E-Sports has continued to evolve, and in more recent years there has been a steady increase in the size and number of tournaments and competitions being held. More diverse and larger corporations have also started getting involved in E-Sports.

From 2002 to 2013, Samsung and Microsoft co-sponsored the World Cyber Games[46]. Intel has held the Intel Extreme Masters event since 2007, which consists of a series of international E-Sports tournaments in multiple locations around the world. Intel's events include StarCraft, Counter-Strike, Quake, League of Legends, and Hearthstone[47].

Major League Gaming[48] (MLG) emerged in 2002[49] as an organization whose business model revolves around organizing competitive gaming and E-Sports events. They had the first televised league in 2006[50] and provide online streaming of games to spectators[51]. Electronic Sports League (ESL) is a European-based company that operates on a similar model[52].

We now have live streaming of video games and E-Sports events from various sources. Twitch began as a genre within Justin.tv and quickly became very popular, accounting for the majority of all content and streams. The video games section of Justin.tv was then spun off to create Twitch[53]. It has a partner program similar to that of YouTube. Twitch was acquired by Amazon.com in 2014 for $970 million[54]. Azubu is a similar streaming platform which is popular in Asia[55]. Riot Games has developed their own platform to stream League of Legends[56].

In 2015, E-Sports was a $613 million industry.[57]

Market Size

  • There are over 134 million viewers across the globe[57].
  • Corporate sponsorships in North America alone are worth over $111 million in 2015[57].
  • Over 12 million people in the United States and Western Europe attended live E-Sports events in 2014[57].
  • The 2014 League of Legends World Championship had over 27 million viewers[58]

The E-Sports Ecosystem

The emerging world of E-Sports can be defined as a large ecosystem consisting of six key components identified in the visual below:

The E-Sports Ecosystem[59].

Consumer Demographics

The consumers of E-Sports make up an amateur competitive gaming circle wherein they watch pro gamers and take part in local tournaments. Interestingly, 40% of the E-Sports viewers do not even play the games themselves; this is a good indicator that E-Sports is quickly becoming a spectator sport[60]. It is important to note that these consumers are different from the general gaming community where the demographics are split quite evenly by gender [61]. E-sport Fans are 87% males between the ages of 18 and 34[57]. They come from generally affluent backgrounds and spend roughly 200 dollars per month purchasing new games, in-game items, and computer hardware[57].

Distribution Channels

Market share of Twitch and other video game streams.[62]

Live Streaming

Live streaming is digital video content that is broadcasted live over the Internet[63]. For E-Sports, live streaming is a business built around watching people play video games professionally or casually. E-Sports’ tremendous rise in recent years can be attributed to the emergence of online streaming platforms. Live streaming has become the key distribution channel that allows pro-players to communicate and interact with their fanbase. In fact, Live streaming has become so central to competitive gaming that titles like Smite[64] have this functionality built right into the game[57]. The size of online streaming has growth to such a scale that even Youtube, a streaming platform, is planning on entering the market with their Youtube Gaming platform that is due out in Summer 2015[65].

Twitch's mobile app interface features an emphasis on interaction through chat.[66]

Twitch is built around the idea that entertainment value in video games comes not just from playing but also from watching others play, and talking about games. As the most popular video game streaming site, with 36% market share, it draws 60 million monthly unique visitors who spend almost two hours on the site daily[57]. To put it into context, it gets more live Internet traffic than traditional sports such as ESPN, Major League Baseball, and WWE[67]. Twitch has also entrenched itself into many other platforms, with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox ONE already having built-in functionality to broadcast the player’s games[61].

Twitch's Business Model

Unlike the traditional cable models where the content distributor is in charge of generating the majority of the content on their channel, Twitch does not create their own content. Instead, Twitch is responsible for providing distribution channels, and negotiating with advertisers; their consumers are the ones that generate content. Consumers generate content by either being a streamer, or as those who participate in the chats. The two main avenues by which Twitch generates revenue are through subscriptions and advertisements. Users can pay a monthly subscription of $8.99 USD to remove ads and other premium features[68]. In addition to Turbo subscriptions, users can subscribe to individuals broadcasters; Twitch's model splits the revenue 50/50 with the streamer[69]. Twitch also generates revenue with smaller channels via merchandise such as t-shirts. T-shirt designs are crowdsourced via the streamers, who provide the design and brand[70].

Game Publishers

There is a wide range of genres in which have developed into competitive gaming. Some of the most notable games and their publishers include:[57]

  • League of Legends - Riot Games[71]
  • World of Tanks - Wargaming[72]
  • Smite - Hi-Rez Studios[73]
  • Call of Duty, StarCraft - Activision Blizzard[74]
  • DotA 2, Counterstrike - Valve[75]

Publishers have a lot of power in steering the direction of the E-Sports industry. Riot Games, hosting one of the largest competitive E-Sports scenes, has managed to lobby the U.S. Congress into approving work visas for their foreign players; essentially treating professional gamers the same as professional athletes.[76]

League of Legends has numerous in-game items and skins available for purchase to customize your character.[77]

League of Legends

Riot Games' League of Legend's E-Sports scene operates on an especially sophisticated level, much like traditional big-league sports. There is a strict set of rules and regulations in place that oversees the integrity of the games[78]. They operate in many different regions around the globe including North America, Europe, Korea, China, Oceania, and most recently Japan[79]. There are seasonal splits in each region (North America and Europe collectively are referred to as the LCS, China = LPL, Korea = LCK), with each region operating slightly differently. Essentially, teams compete with one another to earn points. At the end of the split, the teams with the higher points advances to the next split while the lower ranked teams are sent to relegation. Each region may have mini-tournaments of their own, as well as other sponsored events (both competitive and exhibition matches).

The seasonal splits also determine who the top ranked teams are; these teams will receive a spot in the World Championship tournament, where the best teams in each region come together to compete for the highest title. There is also an international wildcard tournament for LOL teams that don't have their own region[80]. It provides an equal opportunity to all players across the world. The winners of this tournament are also provided placement in the World Championship. The 2014 League of Legends World Championship had 288 million cumulative daily unique views. Fans watched a total of 179 million hours compared to the 70 million hours they watched in the 2013 championship event[81][82].

Despite the elaborate arrangements and events, Riot Games has indicated that the millions they spend on LCS and the E-Sports scene is actually not generating any profit[83]. The company claims that these tournaments improve the game quality for gamers that love the game. This suggests that E-Sports may not be profitable in and of itself, but rather acting as a marketing tool and platform for enhancing the player bases' engagement.

Free to Play Business Model

In 2014, Riot Games made $1 billion in revenue from their single game title[84]. While the traditional revenue model for gaming companies is the actual sale of a game, current trends are moving away from this, towards the free-to-play model[85]. In the free-to-play model, games like League of Legends offer micro-transactions for the sale of items in an online store. The items for sale are mostly for cosmetic purposes, and thus add little to no actual advantages in gameplay for players.

Riot Games also opened a merchandise store in early 2015[86]. In the store, customers are able to purchase merchandise such as figurines, plushies, and clothing[87]. It remains to be seen how the sale of physical merchandise will measure up to the current micro-transaction model for in-game items.


Coca-Cola Zero is a sponsor of League of Legends[88]

Brand holders and advertisers pay teams, league organizers, and publishers in exchange for displaying their logos, products, or naming a competition. Here are some of the major sponsors in E-Sports[57]:

Many large corporations are involved in the E-Sports scene. Coca Cola, specifically Coke-Zero, sponsored the League Challenger series for Riot Games[101]. This is a side series which allowed amateur teams to advance into the professional scene. Intel had started a sponsorship of the IEM tournament in 2007, which is a large event with qualifiers held all across the globe[102].

Events and Tournaments

Comparing League of Legends to other high-viewership broadcasts.[103]

The gaming community is undergoing a cultural shift. Instead of watching and playing games at home, E-Sport fans are starting to seek the social elements that live events offer[104].

In addition to live events, online tournament viewership is also experiencing record-breaking growth. In fact, E-Sports viewership has begun to surpass other media and tournament giants. In October 2013, 32 million people watched the championship of Riot Games' League of Legends on streaming services such as Twitch and YouTube. That’s more than the combined viewership of the TV series finales for Breaking Bad, 24 and The Sopranos. In sports terms, it is more than the combined viewership of the 2014 World Series and NBA Finals[105].

Despite the size and number of the tournaments, publishers like "Riot" and "Activision Blizzard" have continued to host costly tournaments operating on a loss. For example, Riot has invested over $10 million in prize pools in just two years[57]. This is partly because Riot also invests heavily in smaller scale tournaments with less viewership and sponsorship.

Why Host Tournaments?

Breakdown of North American revenues generated by E-Sports events.[57]

Some might question why Riot continues to host tournaments despite the yearly losses, but for Riot, tournaments are more of a marketing platform and are thus a long-term investment. Tournaments also help game publishers to drive engagement, and revenue gain in other channels. A survey by EventBrite found that, after an event, consumers were:

  • 74% more likely to play the game more often[104].
  • 47% more likely to purchase game content related to the game that was watched[104].
  • 38% more likely to buy goods and services that brands advertised during the event[104].

Marc Merrill aptly summarizes Riot’s belief behind hosting tournaments:

“We lose a lot of money on E-Sports. It's not something, currently, that we do to drive return or profitability or whatnot. It’s bringing value to our players. Maybe, down the road, that will change. If we bring value to our players, they'll reward us with audience engagement.” — Marc Merrill, Co-Founder and President of Riot Games [106]

Not all game publishers lose money from tournaments, DotA 2 actually makes a profit by crowdsourcing part of the prize pool. Players are incentivized to purchase the DotA 2 Compendium which offers in-game rewards. 25% of the revenue goes towards the prize pool while 75% goes to Valve[107]. However, Valve only has one big tournament every year, and also does not host smaller local tournaments.

Tournament's Business Model

E-Sport tournaments have revenue streams that are comparable to regular sporting tournaments. Their main revenue source is sponsorship, which makes up over 80% of their revenue[57]. Other sources of income include advertisement revenue, media rights, crowdfunding, ticket sales, and merchandising[57].

Professional Gamers

As the amount of prize money in tournaments has been increasing exponentially, the larger prize pools have made becoming a full-time, pro-gamer a more attractive choice. However, pro-gamers do not just have one stream of income. A large proportion of pro-gamers incomes actually comes from sponsorship money from brands [108]. Some pro-gamers can also choose to stream their sessions on Twitch and earn revenue through: advertisement income, subscription income and fan tips[109]. Lastly, a small proportion of pro-gamers earn a salary by being part of a professional team.

Advertisers and Brands

Kiip's in-game reward for Sour Patch Kids[110].

Branding, advertising, and sponsorships are the engine behind E-sports tournaments and events. Brands see E-Sports as a vehicle in which to advertise to a large viewer base. E-Sports is an opportunity to advertise to a specific segment that is hard to reach through traditional methods, as E-Sports viewers generally don’t watch cable or read the news. However, there may be opportunities beyond just being a sponsor of a Event.

Brands have also started providing interactive advertisements within games in order to connect with consumers on a more personal level. In fact, Kiip, a mobile marketing platform, is integrating ads within gaming moments[111]. For example, the brand Sour Patch Kids used Kiip to provide sample products as rewards during "sweet" and "sour" moments in the game[110]. As a result of the advertisement, purchasing intent increased by 126% for Sour Patch Kids[110].

Emerging Business in E-Sports

Fantasy E-Sports tutorial using Vulvun[112].
  • Betting and Gambling: E-Sports related betting and gambling has been increasing in popularity with E-Sport's recent rise in popularity. As with the already established practice of betting and gambling on sports and other live events, issues like match fixing have begun to creep into this space. One such example of this is with one of the top Counter-Strike teams in the world, iBUYPOWER. It was reported that this team was paid to deliberately lose a game to aid wagers made against them[1]. An example of an operational betting website is Egaming Bets[2].
  • Boosting/Elo Boosting/MMR Boosting: Elo boosting is a practice where weaker players pay more skilled players play on their accounts in order to achieve a higher in-game rankings. MMR stands for the match-making ratio, which is a key performance measure that users often want to increase on their account. This can range from casual social favours between friends to real money being exchanged for the service by total strangers. This activity is prevalent in most E-Sports games such as League of Legends, Dota2, Call of Duty, StarCraft, etc. This is against the terms of service for most games and can result in the account being banned[3]. However this does not stop the practice due to player's desires to achieve higher in-game social status. A website that currently offers these types of services is LOL Elo Boosting[4].
There is a large community within the E-Sports scene that creates fan-content.[5].
  • Fantasy E-Sports: Fantasy E-Sports is an emerging trend seen in 2014 that has rapidly gained a strong customer following. Fantasy E-Sports is a simulation that allow participants to build their own E-Sports team and watch them progress, similar to traditional fantasy sports[1]. A popular fantasy platform for E-Sports today is Vulcun[2].
  • Community: The E-Sports scene has a strong community, with many 3rd parties involved in creating fan content and even making a living from their participation in the community. This includes Twitch streams, YouTube stars[3], and fan-art creators[4]. Numerous conventions take place to focus on fan-created content. An example being PAX East, an annual event spanning several days in Boston[5]. There are also an immeasurable number of smaller groups that meet and interact to discuss, play, or watch E-Sports, such as university clubs[6].

Legal, Social, and Ethical Concerns

As with any growing phenomenon, E-Sports isn’t immune from its share of legal, social and ethical problems. In the case of E-Sports, the specific concerns being faced are doping, content ownership, gender inequality, gaming addiction, and player protection, among others.


With E-Sports becoming an increasingly profitable industry, it is only natural that questions regarding fairness of play, and regulated conditions have begun to arise.

It has been reported on, and admitted to by some players[7], that doping before competitive gaming is not out of the ordinary. With motivation very similar to that of real-life athletes, competitive gamers are looking to gain any and all competitive advantages that may tilt the playing field in their favour. These drugs are used for a variety of affects, most of which work to augment their mental state. The table below outlines five of the most common substances utilized by competitive gamers.

Name Effect
caption[8] Ritalin Improves Concentration
caption[9] Propranolol Blocks Adrenaline
caption[10] Selegiline Improving Mood / Motivation
caption[11] Caffeine Improved Alertness
caption[12] Adderall Heightened Sense of Focus

An interesting development in July 2015, after hearing the concerns surrounding doping in E-Sports, the Electronic Sports League committed to introducing drug testing in their tournaments[7]. It remains to be seen, however, how quickly the practice of testing will propagate through the industry.

Ownership of Content

Much like the rest of the internet, the legal landscape of E-Sports is constantly evolving. One of the biggest issues for the E-Sports business model, from a legal standpoint, is content ownership. Though the list of contributing factors will no doubt continue to grow, three of the current problems E-Sports faces are unofficial spinoff content, stream stealing, and new streaming services like Periscope.

Unofficial Spinoff Content

While most of the streaming content regarding tournaments and prize games are proprietary property of companies like Riot Games, viewers that pay for viewing these streams also have the ability to capture these streams and save copies of them. Some of these viewers have then taken this footage and uploaded it to YouTube[13][14], reporting on it in the form of a sports highlights show. Because these YouTube channels are not owned by proprietary streaming services like Riot Games, the boundaries regarding content ownership in cases like these are currently unresolved.

Stream Stealing

In a similar vein to unofficial spinoff content, a new phenomenon that is occurring during live streams of E-Sports tournaments and other popular events is live re-streaming of content[15]. The essence of the problem is as follows:

  1. An individual pays for access to a pay-per-view stream of a live tournament or game
  2. This individual then takes this stream and re-streams to an audience over a platform like Twitch or Azubu, among others
  3. The re-streamer generates (steals) profit based on the number of streamers they attract
  4. The proprietary streaming service loses potential pay-per-view customers to these re-streamers, and thus loses this potential viewership profit to the re-streamer

Because of the legal and ethical concerns surrounding this practice, it will be interesting to see how the future of monetization and profit generation in this industry will continue to evolve.


A new streaming innovation has recently hit the market in the form of Periscope. Periscope is a service offered by Twitter where users can use their smart devices to live stream to an audience whatever their camera is currently looking at. While the positive implications of such a service are definitely enticing, the negative impacts on live events like concerts and E-Sports tournaments are equally as significant in terms of magnitude.

There have already been scenarios where attendees of a live event have streamed their point-of-view to large online audiences[17] (that are looking for free alternatives to the paid viewing experience). Unfortunately for event organizers, this “disincentivizes” people from purchasing their advertised viewing experience; whether it be pay-per-view or a live event.

Team Siren was a new all-female League of Legends team[18].

Women in E-Sports

- Heather 'SapphiRe' Mumm[1]
- Rachel 'Seltzer' Quirico[1]

With E-Sports having much of its roots in the evolution of the internet, it is not a surprise to see that the culture surrounding it is equal parts productive and destructive (much like the internet). While E-Sports has created a booming industry, it has also inherited the harsh gender discrimination that is rampant on the internet.

The quotes from two different female professional gamers illustrate the type of sexism that women in this industry are currently facing. Furthermore, the video on Team Siren showcases a trailer video for an all-women E-Sports team that got notably negative and sexist feedback from the gaming community on YouTube and other channels, primarily for no other reason than gender discrimination[2].

Male Earnings 2015[3]
Female Earnings 2015[4]

The two tables of salary information compare the 2015 E-Sports earnings broken down by the top ten male and female players. Much like the gender gap witnessed in the real world, there is visible disparity (almost by a factor of 10) in terms of earning power between the top ten players of each gender.

There is hope that as the industry becomes more socially mature, it will eliminate the gender discrimination that is currently facing women. However, the internet always lags behind the real world in terms of social evolution, and the rate at which these phenomena will be eliminated from E-Sports will consistently be capped by the rate of change of the real world.

Gaming Addiction

A meta-analytic review of pathological gaming studies concluded that about 3.0% of gamers may experience some symptoms of pathological gaming[5]. Douglas Gentile, a research psychologist from Iowa State University and the Director of Research for the National Institute of Media and the Family, recently conducted a study that found 8.5 percent of Americans between the ages of 8 and 18 (roughly 3 million people) were addicted to video games between 2007-2009[6]. This study did not include adults which means the number of people addicted to video games overall is significantly greater.

There have been multiple reports of people dying due to their extreme addiction for gaming[7][8][9]. It remain to be seen how the gaming industry will address these problems as society becomes more and more technologically dependent.

Cheon "Promise" Min-Ki attempted suicide after involvement in a 2014 match fixing scandal.[10]

Player Protection

A major scandal broke out in March 2014 where a Korean professional League of Legends player by the name of Cheon "Promise" Min-Ki attempted suicide after being scammed and forced into fixed matches by his manager[11][12]. Although sustaining major injuries he miraculously survived the fall from the 12-story building and recovered. The gaming community showed tremendous support for him, organizing a fundraising event for him on Reddit.[13] Various E-Sports stars also began speaking up for him[14]. This situation illustrates the issue of how E-Sports is still a new and unregulated territory. It emphasizes the importance for game publishers to remain diligent in order to ensure the safety and well being of all the players involved.

The Future Prospects of Business in E-Sports

The volume of consumers and stakeholders involved with E-Sports, as well as the sheer size of the market, cannot be ignored as the value is currently estimated to be over $613 million and growing rapidly. With professional teams that compete for tournament prize pools, and numerous opportunities for sponsorship, there are plenty of marketing activities available for businesses to get involved in. There are a wide variety of thriving business models which have been outlined in this write-up, including companies directly involved in publishing games or organizing tournaments, as well as other revenues models that focus on streaming, merchandise, or advertising, among others.

As mentioned earlier, the demographic of E-Sport fans are predominantly affluent young males males with a large disposable income. In addition, the segment is quite homogenous in a sense that they usually have similar interests. This could be a lucrative market for advertisers. However, brands at the moment are generally advertising using traditional methods such as physical banners and promotional videos. These methods typically are a one-way conversation whereby advertisers share their ideas and have low engagement rates. There is an opportunity for brands to make advertising an integral part of the gaming experience. By making it interactive and creating ads as part of the experience, user involvement will increase and lead to higher conversion rates.

Furthermore, two relatively untapped sub-market segments within E-Sports are female professional gamers and female spectators, due to the current state of the social landscape. When we progress to mitigating issues of gender inequality, it is entirely feasible that the E-Sports industry will experience an influx of both female professional gamers and female spectators; both of which will create new niche markets that cater to the needs of these consumers. For example, future market expansion may include female-focused apparel, targeted branding for female spectators, etc.

With E-Sports becoming an international phenomenon with notable room for growth in both the European and South American markets, E-Sports could be a reliable advertising avenue that brands can use across the world. However, international companies should be cognizant about the cultural differences between countries and markets accordingly to avoid any possible backlash. Additionally, companies could leverage the cultural nuances in their favour. For example, in Asian markets, consumers are more accepting of players promoting brands for companies. This is due to the cultural differences of not viewing these stars as ‘sell outs’ if they advertise for companies. In fact, they see this as validation of the gamer’s accomplishments. For example, most professional teams in Asia are named directly after their sponsors’ brand name. The winning teams of the League of Legends World Championship for seasons 2, 3, and 4 are all named after companies.


  1. 1.0 1.1 http://www.pcgamer.com/gdc-panel-women-in-esports-are-walking-through-a-minefield
  2. http://www.newsoflegends.com/index.php/sexism-in-esports-why-cant-women-succeed-as-pro-gamers-17414/
  3. http://www.esportsearnings.com/players/highest_overall
  4. http://www.esportsearnings.com/players/female_players
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_game_addiction
  6. http://www.news.iastate.edu/news/2011/jan/addiction
  7. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4137782.stm
  8. http://www.foxnews.com/story/2007/09/18/chinese-man-drops-dead-after-3-day-gaming-binge.html
  9. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/03/taiwan-internet-cafe-corpse-gamer-died-dead_n_1252766.html
  10. http://www.sett.fi/uutinen/vedonly%C3%B6ntihuijaus-p%C3%A4%C3%A4ttyi-itsemurhayritykseen
  11. http://kotaku.com/league-of-legends-pro-attempted-suicide-after-tournamen-1542880793
  12. http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/why-did-korean-league-legends-pro-attempted-suicide-1440164
  13. https://www.reddit.com/r/leagueoflegends/comments/20b8s9/fundraiser_for_ahq_promise
  14. http://leagueoflegends.yougamers.co/video.html#!xuL0gA_-TqY
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