Video Gaming Grows Up

By Ted Owen

Most of us have childhood memories of playing video games on computers at home, loading them either by cartridge, cassette or in the case of the rich kid on the block by floppy disk. That was then.

Welcome to 2018 where you and your own children are now living in a world where the computer or video gaming is as mainstream as going to the movies or watching TV. More importantly, digital games are increasingly played competitively over the internet against others, coining the term eSports. Here are some factors to put in perspective:

The latest data from 2014 identifies 205 million people having watched or played eSports with growth currently forecast at more than 20 percent per year. As ESPN put it, “If this were a country it would have the fifth largest population in the world.”

In the early 1970s, the first digital games tournament at Stanford University had as its prize a one-year subscription to Rolling Stone magazine. Thankfully, the ante has increased and the recent The International: DOTA (Defense of the Ancients) 2 took first place with prize money totaling $134 million with over 2,000 players in nearly 900 tournaments. The second place League of Legends had prize money totaling near $50 million and some 5,000 plus players in near 2,000 matches.

Generating Sales
So popular is the eSports craze that, a website where you can post your own, or watch videos of people playing video games was bought by Amazon in 2014 for $970 million: it has some 100 million unique viewers per month. The most successful video game to date is Tetris with sales of 170 million copies followed by Minecraft with sales of 144 million copies. The 2004 release of World of Warcraft is the leading revenue generator for online games with $10 billion in sales to date with the 2010 installment of the Call of Duty franchise achieving some $1.5 billion in sales.

The 21-to-35 year old age group is a key demographic for actively engaged eSports fans and consists of 35 percent of men and 21 percent of women who fall within this group. Also of note: observers of the Olympic Games viewership ratings have noted the increase in digital views by the younger demographic at the expense of traditional TV-based viewing. NBC reported TV viewing was down some 7 percent at Pyeongchang compared to the previous Sochi Winter Games. However, the mobile phone sharing app Snapchat had 35 million unique views during the most recent Winter Olympics, which in 7 days was more than that garnered for the entire 2016 Summer Games.

The International Olympic Committee is currently looking hard at including eSports in the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics games, and I have personally invested much time and effort in seeking to bring this to reality. One of the keys to making this initiative successful is to have the infrastructure in place so that people can qualify on a level playing field. One of the initiatives my company PlayAPI is pursuing with some independent developers is the inclusion of a standard programming routine which enables the data accrued by the gamer to be analyzed and compared on a level playing field.

So, the next time someone in your family is ignoring the chores and playing a game, just think—they may be the next Sean White or Lindsay Vonn (digitally, of course).