Revenues and audiences that have grown explosively in the past years have transformed the landscape of eSports forever. The top spots of each discipline, or game, are firmly in the grasp of professional teams who train, travel and see money similar to the professionals in regular sports. We may still be far away from football, but you are witnessing the unstoppable rise of the second truly global sport.
The biggest events such as the DotA 2 world championship final, The International, amass online viewership of tens of millions and boast a prize pool to match. In 2017, the winning team took home $10.8 million with over 5 million people following the match at its peak. The League of Legends final may not be able to match the money, but make up for it in viewers: the match peaked at a staggering 14.7 million and gathered over 43 million unique viewers.
When you have a match that attracts this kind of numbers, you can be certain that companies take notice. And take notice they have, with several different industries looking to get involved in the magnificent growth story. Aside from technology companies which one would expect to be involved in eSports, you’ll find the logo of Audi from the jersey of the Danish team Astralis and the name of a major bookmaker Betway from the chest of Ninjas in Pyjamas. In a universe that is predominantly inhabited by young men, social media is a major, major player and no one does it better than FaZe Clan.
FaZe and NiP are some of the biggest brands in the business and online you’ll find proof that teams of this calibre sport brand new facilities…or even mansions. Teams have become savvy about nutrition, training and optimizing their practice hours; just gaming double digit hours per day in a dark room isn’t necessary going to guarantee success anymore. That said, it may and most likely is still the case before a bigger competition. But in general, as in all sports, science is what calls the shots nowadays.
As the level of play has risen in the past years, players have started naturally to demand more from their hardware. A good gaming mouse and keyboard are fully adjustable for the fit and weight to suit your preferences, and you can pretty much program every key or button to your liking. Or make your keyboard or mouse glow in all colours of the rainbow. Alongside the brands most people are familiar with such as Asus, Creative and Logitech; we now have a new breed of brands that specialize only on eSports. Razer, Corsair, SteelSeries, Zowie and Mad Catz are familiar for now mainly enthusiasts, but for how long? Not all of them are new kids on the block; Razer was founded in 2005 and SteelSeries already back in 2001.
Besides the obvious five technical parts of the setup, the demands of gaming spread beyond the vision, sound and controls which are essential for the players. One of the newest innovations is an adjustable, full on integrated eSports table which was revealed by possibly the most popular eSports screen manufacturer, BenQ, earlier this year. No setup is perfect without a gaming chair, an ergonomic and supportive seating solution which allows the plyaers to maintain focus and their posture during longer sessions. They appear familiar to racing seats from motorsports, and for a reason.
As you can imagine, gaming specific gear does cost more than your average pc hardware, but the difference isn’t as great as one might imagine. Display drivers and other pieces inside the main unit of course do just as good of a job in video editing or photo manipulation as they do in gaming, but the gaming gear looks and performs very differently to the ones designed for a graphic designer. You can however easily find affordable yet high quality eSports equipment and as technology advances, the prices are only to go down and availability to go up.
This is not of course a concern for the eSports elite who are equipped by their organisations, but it has a much bigger impact on the eSports universe and the modern society as a whole. Much like with the only truly global sport (for now), football, and most people who can afford a computer can also afford elite level equipment. And most importantly; it’s available for everyone.
This ensures that new talent continues to flow to the very pinnacle of eSports in every discipline, and only reinforce the surge of competitive gaming as a truly global phenomenon.