The Allure of eSports

ESports is a booming industry that’s set to top $1 billion in revenue for 2019. It attracts those of us who prefer to stay in our rooms playing games instead of going out to meet new people or party all night. We’re able to watch games from the comforts of our own homes. We can support specific teams and throw get-togethers equivalent to Sunday night football, all while watching a game that holds our interest.

Unlike typical sports, eSports doesn’t have venues or home and away games. True, matches have to be played in arenas like any other sport, but these teams don’t travel the world to play in other countries. At least, not yet. Typically, matches happen in populated areas like California or New York in multi-purpose venues. Times are changing though.

Newest eSports Arena

Comcast Spectacor recently announced their plans to build an eSports stadium in the South Philadelphia Sports Complex. This $50 million, 3,500 seat Fusion Arena will host Philly’s own professional Overwatch League team, Philadelphia Fusion. The arena, set to open in 2021, will be 60,000 square feet and feature a training facility.

Philadelphia Fusion Courtesy of NBC Sports Philadelphia

The goal of this stadium is to increase revenue within the eSports community. As is, the Overwatch League earns money through ticket sales, surge pricing, broadcasting rights, and franchise fees. The addition of a stadium would include revenue from ticket sales, 3,500 with the new stadium compared to the Overwatch Leagues approximate 530, VIP boxes, concessions, parking, merchandise, and sponsorship. These venue additions would drive revenue for the Philadelphia-based team way up.

What’s Next for eSports?

All this leaves us with one last question, how big is eSports going to get? Arguably, eSports is going to reach the same level as traditional sports. I know this seems ridiculous to some, but the League of Legends World Championships in November had almost 100 million unique viewers. To put that into perspective, last year’s Super Bowl had 103 million viewers.

ESports isn’t as big as traditional sports, but it’s working its way towards being more prominent than anyone could have expected. No one predicted that stadiums would one day be built for individual teams. Player’s in the League earn a minimum of $50,000 a year plus health insurance and retirement savings plans. Teams are battling for a bonus pool of $3.5 million, and the champions take home $1 million.

Overwatch League Grand Finals Photo by Bryan Bedder

ESports is not just a game in the same way football or baseball aren’t. Player’s dedicate their lives to these matches and put everything on the line in an attempt to win. How much has already been put into eSports is astonishing, and I’m excited to see what will change in years to come.