Esports Playing a Big Role in Return of Live Events | Sports Destination Management

Esports Playing a Big Role in Return of Live Events

Aug 14, 2020 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

We already know that esports is the new frontier of sports. Not just that but it’s flourishing and evolving rapidly. And the same force that drove U.S. settlers across the plains to seek a new life is the same one that is driving esports forward into cities across the nation 2020. Esports have survived the pandemic well and are ready to help the tournament economy rebound. Here are a few of the changes in the landscape – and why event owners can’t afford to ignore it any longer.

There’s a Recognized International Governing Body: The International Esports Federation (IESF) has a total of 76 members that are national governing bodies. (To find a list of all those national governing bodies, go here). It is based in South Korea.

The U.S. is a Member: The United States Esports Federation is a member of the larger Pan American Esports Confederation. USEF is a not-for-profit organization with the responsibility to promote, grow and develop esports. Its additional ambition is to unite all esports stakeholders, including athletes, event organizers, technology producers, innovators and inventors, IP holders, parents, sponsors and fans.

Rethinking Its Status: There’s been plenty of discussion as to whether esports counts as a “real sport” or simply as an adjunct to traditional sports. Acceptance of esports as part of the mainstream continues to rise, however. Most recently, Jordan Olympic Committee secretary general Nasser Majali said that traditional sports and esports are "one and the same" in the Middle Eastern nation.

Majali, who is also the vice-president of the Arab Esports Federation, was quoted in Inside The Games after he spoke at an online webinar to discuss the relationship between competitive gaming and international sports federations.

"In Jordan, when we are talking about sports and esports, it's one and the same," said Majali. "We view esports as one of our sports. However, I would like to reiterate that accessibility in esports is borderless. This means many of our athletes and gamers are able to participate in competitions for a very low cost, with no need for visas or travel.”

By the Numbers, It’s Still Impressive (all 2019 figures from IESF):

  • $1.1 billion was generated in revenues from esports
  • $214 million in prizes was distributed
  • 23,000 individual athletes received prizes
  • 4,600 prized tournaments were organized and played
  • 11 Esports World Championships were conducted by IESF

All Those Tournaments (and More) Will Be Looking for Homes: The ever-growing esports industry is operating largely online at the moment but its in-person events will be returning as more and more live competitions are held.

The New York Times recently examined the growth of arenas in the $1 billion per year industry, noting that whereas in the past, smaller spaces had been the norm (developers had focused on adapting smaller spaces, including nightclubs and even a 1950s office complex), everything is bigger now. New venues are being built (or revamped) in cities, including Philadelphia (the Fusion Arena), San Diego (the Pechanga Arena) and Las Vegas (Allied Esports). And HOK, a sports-focused architecture firm with an esports practice, says the need continues to grow. Three years ago, no designers worked on such projects; by 2019, HOK had 15 professionals with specific expertise on them.

And Hosts Will Reap the Benefits: Consider the Fortnite World Cup, hosted in late July 2019 in New York’s Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, just prior to the U.S. Open. The event sold out seats (more than 23,000) in Arthur Ashe Stadium through the weekend event. Spectators paid between $50 and $100. The top prize winner took home $3 million. Second and third place were $1.8 million and $1.05 million, respectively. And every qualifier took home $50,000. When the event returns in an in-person format, count on even more interest.

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