The eSports scene wasn’t always as popular as it is now. People didn’t exactly get the chance to show off their skills against equally; or more-skilled opponents. When games appeared, they were simple creations that were new; freshly polished. Even Pong featured a 2-player mode which would pit two friends against each other. Let’s take a look at how the evolution of eSports unfolded over the years.
The first actual challenge that appeared in the world of video games was the introduction of split-screen play. Finally, you could sit down next to someone and attempt to better them at a game of your choice. One of the first that featured this was FIFA; the original player vs player game which had both of them on the screen at the same time. On top of FIFA, we had games such as Halo and Goldeneye; the enigmatic and fascinating James Bond game on the N64. The late 90s contained an explosion of multiplayer games – a new concept that caught the gaming world by storm.
However, the problem of breaking the exposure barrier existed which was remedied a couple of years later. In any case, the beginning of multiplayer gaming and eSports (which could be attributed to this period since offline tournaments existed, albeit tiny compared to what we have now). Plus, some players loved this existence in the shadows; they could gloat and celebrate amongst a small circle of acquaintances. But, as with all things, gaming and, more specifically, eSports evolved rather quickly:
The advent of true multiplayer gaming (over online connections or lan) has completely changed how eSports and tournaments work. Tournaments slowly started to shift from split-screen methods to online methods, as can be seen with the appearance of Starcraft. We had games like the original Counter Strike (1.6 as the most popular version) entering the stage as well.
Players now needed to train and play for much longer to improve their skills because, well, everyone else was doing it. The fun-focused tournaments with small prizes evolved into battle-fueled showdowns to show the world who’s best. This happened over the course of a couple of years; even with the pioneers of this time. No one wanted to rush things more than necessary and it would be years before the eSports we know today started to shape up. eSports playing became a dream for many young people; those that thought their hobby would be a job in the foreseeable future.
Tournaments started to be hosted in larger arenas covered in lights, cameras, and under the watchful eye of the spectators. You could say that eSports betting was also born but this segment of the eSports world wouldn’t explode until recently.
We also saw the beginning of sponsorships; companies would have a sponsorship agreement with players that would wear their gear, use their equipment, and generally show the world that they exist. Marketing through fun – something that’s still present today.
Soon, though, the whole eSports landscape will change. Specific game niches would become connected with individual gaming tastes and this would give birth to team games. DotA, as such, appeared after seeing what Starcraft’s Aeon of Strife map did. Counter Strike also evolved into a more modern version, and team play was slowly starting to become the most important thing in eSports. The evolution of eSports was now in full swing.
Because of this, specific games started focusing on making the best multiplayer possible, plus there were those which were purely online-oriented. But still, true, large tournaments weren’t yet introduced into the scene. However, due to the constant improvement of games and players alike, they would start being the final stage in reaching your dreams.
DotA had its tournaments, Starcraft theirs, and other games were important parts of this phenomenon as well. People would no longer sit in their homes, disconnected from the globality of it all; they would instead start participating in the games themselves – whether as spectators or players.
eSports began to grow much faster than anyone could have expected and, after this rapid growth period, we reach the golden years!
Stagnation and Slow Evolution
Once LAN (Local Area Network) events started taking place, it was all the more obvious how eSports would continue to expand. However, it expanded in a different way than what everyone thought. We wouldn’t exactly be seeing the similar evolution progression from that point onward. The next step would be integrating VR games into the eSports scene but this is yet to be done.
The things improving, on the other hand, would be games, the organization of tournaments, and everything in between.
League of Legends got into the fray, DotA 2, CS: GO, Overwatch, Fortnite, Hearthstone, FIFA, Rainbow 6… These are games that have left their mark on the gaming world. They’re the pinnacle of eSports as it is now; the highest peak of competitive play. Tournaments with millions of dollars in prize pools are nothing uncommon today. Teams have professional coaches that devise strategies and push players to be better at what they do.
The eSports of today is directly comparable to physical sports – almost all aspects are the same except for the environment.
If we take a look at the current trends and growth, we can see that there’s not a lot left to improve with the current system. It works perfectly well and teams (along with all the staff) get paid well. Fortnite is a shining example of an amazing system – their Summer Skirmish tournament has a pretty large prize pool and Epic Games said that they want to make the prize pool for the first year of competitive play equal around $100,000,000.
That’s a big number! And that’s exactly what we’ll be seeing on a constant through the next couple of years. Oh, remember the point about VR that I made? We could probably see the emergence of VR gaming tournaments in the near future – all that’s left to do is the logistical side and perfecting the VR experience. The evolution of eSports will continue its growth into the unknown – but it sure will be magical!