Today, ESPN. Tomorrow, the world – or at least the Pacific Rim. The evolution of e-sports continues.
Amateur and professional video gaming competitions (known in some circles as ‘mind sports) are held globally, but they are particularly popular in Asia. The International e-Sports Federation (IeSF), a South Korea-based governing body for what is known as human-computer interface gaming, recently announced that it has formed a strategic cooperation agreement with the World Cyber Arena (WCA), a global e-sports event organizer based in China.
The goal of the partnership is to provide specialized training focusing on all the links of the e-sports industry chain, including referees, commentary, program production, coaches, teams and competition management. It will also solidify China’s reputation as a leader in the e-sports industry.
A recent report published by iResearch found that the Chinese e-sports market is expected to exceed RMB 50 billion ($7.6 billion) in the future. To grow, however, e-sports needs to “internationalize,” something the IeSF partnership with WCA aims to achieve. E-sports has traditionally been hampered by poor organization and lack of variety in competitions, an inability to organize general events, differences in the ability levels of referees and unevenness of commentary expertise. The new education initiative is expected to work toward standardizing e-sports competitions more and encourage more professional levels of management. This, then, could create a better, more formidable marketplace and competitive arena for e-sports as a whole.
According to IeSF and WCA, cooperation will be initiated by officially certified global e-sports training agencies, and training will cover all links of the e-sports industry chain. Referee and anchor training will come first this year, followed by training in a wide range of professional fields such as coaching, team management and competition marketing next year. Training will be provided online and offline, with online training expected to be launched at the end of this year.
Currently, the IeSF has nine e-sports member organizations from Denmark, South Korea, Germany, Austria, Belgium, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Vietnam and Taiwan. Since 2009, the IeSF has held six World Championship events, the most recent in Seoul, South Korea. Gamers battled in three titles -- League of Legends, StarCraft II and Hearthstone -- and the first place spot was taken by a team from Serbia. Global e-sports federations strive to portray e-sports as true sports, and the IeSF hopes to become the global body in charge of maintaining, promoting and supporting the growing industry.
E-sports is already making its mark in the sports travel industry, and there is plenty of room to grow. In December of 2014, San Jose’s SAP Center hosted U.S.’s biggest e-sports event, Intel Extreme Masters. The tournament brought sell-out crowds to the 18,000-seat arena.
E-sports also attract television viewership. According to ESPN, which now covers e-sports, 27 million people tuned in to watch the 2014 finals of the League of Legends World Championship: more viewers than the final game of the World Series (23.5 million) or the NBA Finals (18 million). ESPN has noted that some 205 million people watched or played e-sports in 2014, according to market research firm Newzoo -- meaning that if the e-Sports nation were actually a nation, it would be the fifth largest in the world.