Why Are eSports a Sport

Since eSports began in 2012, people have debated their legitimacy as a sport. In this article, we'll be looking at exactly why are eSports a sport.

why are esports a sport
Why Are eSports a Sport

ESports betting has been around since 2014, 2 years after CS:GO was launched. Gamers and bettors alike have flocked to this betting because of the action eSports create. However, since the dawn of eSports, there has been a heated debate about whether it is an actual sport.

We'll be looking at why are eSports a sport and how it affects the eSports betting market.

eSports Explained

We can trace the beginnings of eSports in the 1970s when Stanford University hosted the first official video game competition. But what are eSports exactly?

The term eSports is a combination of two words, electronic and sports. It is the field of competitive, organized video gaming. In recent years, it has become a global sensation. Professional eSports players have become popular and garnered quite a following. Their fans watch and follow these gamers worldwide, either attending live events or watching them on TV or online.

There are a lot of online games today, but there are only a handful of which major tournaments revolve around.

CS:GO, League of Legends, DOTA2, and Valorant are the games that feature most heavily in major tournaments.

What Makes eSports a Sport

Aside from eSports betting, eSports has been pushing boundaries in terms of being known as a sport. Here are some reasons why eSports are considered a legitimate sport:

Physical & Mental Requirements

Two video game players from different teams competing for a trophy

When people think about eSports, they always imagine people sitting in front of computers clicking a mouse. They're not wrong, but there's more to than meets the eye.

Sport is defined as "a game or a competition needing physical effort and skill that is played according to rules". While eSports may not be as physically strenuous as other sports, there's no doubt that the skill eSports require, legitimize it as a sport through that definition.

Like basketball and football players, professional eSports players need conditioning and training. In an interview with Walters and Faulkner from Sports Academy, they noted key physical requirements necessary for an online gamer:

  • A sturdy core
  • Perfect posture
  • Great hand-eye coordination
  • Strong forearms, hands, wrists, and fingers

Aside from the physical aspect, players need to have a mental skill set. For example:

  • Ability to make split-second decisions
  • High level of focus
  • Wakefulness
  • Great reaction time
  • Clear and strategic thinking

Strict Competition Regulation

Like other sports, eSports is regulated by a governing body. All eSports tournament organizers need to follow the International eSports Federation (IESF) regulations and standards. The organization created and continuously updates a rulebook to keep up with the changing environment of eSports.

IESF's rules and regulations span from sponsor restrictions to eSports doping. A good example is the organization's rule on behaviors and statements. Naturally, the governing body expects every player to be on their best behavior. Moreover, players cannot make public statements on behalf of a tournament organizer to the media or other outlets.

The example is normal for any sport. What makes eSports unique is its naming and mature content clause. IESF highly restricts any player from joining any tournament if they have an offensive in-game name. The player either needs to change it or create a new account.

League Investment

eSports follow the same format as traditional sports like basketball. Thus, electronic sports also have leagues where professional gamers play for glory and (sometimes) a multi-million dollar prize. The highest prize pool reached a whopping $34 million. OG team won the grand prize from  DOTA 2's The International in 2019.

With millions of dollars at stake, people want to become managers and owners of eSports teams. The cost of running an eSports team is not fully disclosed by those who handle them. Nevertheless, here are some estimated figures behind a professional team:

  • A mid-to-high ranking professional gamer has a salary of $50,000 to $75,000 yearly. There are also earnings from sponsorships, tournament prizes, and streaming.
  • Coaches fetch around a hefty $80,000-100,000 annually, depending on the ranking of the team.
  • You need to have $8,000 to $50,000 to start a basic eSports program with a 10- to 15-player team.
  • Gaming equipment can cost around $50,000 to $300,000.

Owners and managers should also think of the team's future expenditure. They need to consider housing, equipment upgrades, and also healthcare.

Team and Player Conditioning

Most leagues come around only once a year. Consequently, there's ample time for players to spend their downtime in training and honing their skills. Like traditional sports, top eSports teams have various programs to keep their bodies in top condition for upcoming matches.

Some teams include nutritional and diet regimes for their players. Others put their gamers in exercise plans to keep their endurance up. Teams also join minor leagues or local tournaments to condition themselves in major ones. Sometimes teams play with other teams in a friendly match to test their skills.

eSports a Part of the Olympics

Conversations about adding eSports to the Olympics slate have been a buzz for years now. It became a slight reality in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics with the Olympic Virtual Series (OVS). The event was held in May and June 2021, ahead of the traditional games. Competitors played video games of cycling, motorsports, sailing, baseball, and rowing.

Nonetheless, these games are not eSports per se, but it's a good start. The International Olympic Committee hasn't made any statements about including games like DOTA2 and League of Legends in future OVS. The hopeful inclusion has also sparked the interest of new bettors to flock to the eSports betting scene.

Rapid Growth of the eSports Betting Industry

The eSports betting market is rapidly catching up to the sports betting market, due to the young demographic who grew up playing video games reaching the legal gambling age. They have disposable income and are likely to choose eSports over regular sports.

Despite going on a bumpy road in its early years, eSports betting has grown into a powerful industry today. In 2016, Eilers & Krejcik, and Narus predicted that 6.5 million individuals would bet on any eSports game. Furthermore, bettors were projected to place bets totaling $12.9 billion by the year 2020.

While it hasn't quite grown as fast in those projections, recent data shows that the eSports betting market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 13.1% from 2020 to 2025. It will reach $13.05 billion by the end of 2025. Numbers US gambling sites have been taking notice of this trend and are integrating eSports as part of their sports betting section.

If you're still unsure, here's what Bryan de Zayas, head of global marketing at Alienware has to say:

Yes, esports is sports. Professional esports and traditional sports athletes share many of the same characteristics, which are required of them, to be the best in their profession. These athletes exhibit traits such as a commitment to excellence, perseverance and a passion for their sport which fuels the rigors necessary to compete at the highest levels of competition.

Bryan de Zayas, Global Marketing Director, Dell and Alienware
eSports Gambling Statistics
Infographic: eSports Gambling Statistics

The answer to "why are eSports a sport?" is that it has the same characteristics as traditional sports but is played differently. We're excited about what eSports and eSports betting will can offer in the short term and the long term.

This article was published on January 23, 2022, and last updated on May 24, 2022.