The origin of eSports is thought by many to be just over only a decade or so ago. And while that time period does indeed mark the birth of eSports into the larger global market, the true origin of eSports can be traced back far further than that.
October 1972 saw the first ever organised eSport event, the Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics, take place at the Stanford's Artificial Intelligence (AI) Laboratory, where twenty-four students competed in the video game SPACEWAR.
Eight years later came the event credited with being the first large-scale video game competition: the Space Invaders Championship held in 1980 by Atari, with over 10,000 players.
Throughout the 1990s, the earliest eSports focused primarily on first-person shooter games. This was changed, however, by the introduction of StarCraft: Brood Wars in 1998, an RTS (Real Time Strategy) video game. StarCraft: Brood Wars is widely accepted as the first major eSports game.
The 1990s and 2000s saw the emergence of eSport leagues, including the World Cyber Games (WCB), Electronic Sports World Cup (ESWC), Nintendo World Championships and Major League Gaming (MLG).
From here, eSports has risen to its present eminence, with the number of people around the globe aware of eSports predicted to increse from 809 million in 2015 to 1.57 billion in 2019.
How have eSports become so popular?
The current popularity of eSports with millions of people around the world can be explained using the five As: Accessibility, Amusement, All, Adaptation and Attraction.
There is much media coverage of eSports competitions on a multitude of different platforms, with replays in addition to live streaming available, so that matches can be viewed at any time of day.
Media platforms such as YouTube (2005) and Twitch (2011) are not only used to stream tournaments but also as places where professionals and enthusiasts alike can showcase their skills, thereby adding to the hype surrounding eSports.
February 2017 saw 99.19 million hours of League of Legends footage watched on Twitch. In addition, advertising and discussions on popular sites such as Facebook and Twitter also raise awareness of eSports.
As with playing video games, watching them unfold as others do battle is fun, too. Not only that, but just as people who enjoy baking watch cookery television shows like Master Chef and those who love singing keep up with the X Factor, it is not only because you love it and want to absorb more of it that you continue to watch, but it is also that watching others helps you to become better at what you love.
Even people who do not play video games themselves enjoy watching eSports. Why? For the same reason that people religiously tune in to watch football games and attend matches: because rooting for a player of team you believe in, willing for success against the odds, the adrenaline of a battle in motion… Who can resist such a feeling?
Anyone can watch eSports, provided that they have an internet connection (although even this is not always necessary if the tournament is broadcast on television) and a device on which to watch.
The same appeal stands for gaming itself: with enough dedication, drive and investment, skill in video games can be cultivated from nothing into an eventually amazing performance.
Ongoing innovation relentlessly improves the eSports experience - both for those competing and those spectating - in an unceasing drive to create and cultivate enjoyment of the tournaments. This is why eSports is expanding in popularity around the globe in so rapid a manner, with Peter Warman claiming that "it has the potential to become one of the top five sports in the world. That will take maybe five years".
With Silver.tv's 360-degree viewing for spectating eSports tournaments from your own home and the developments in virtual reality (VR) for eSports with the initiation of an entirely VR eSports tournament called the VR Challenger League, as well as Valve's Dota 2 Hub offering a VR Theatre for streaming the matches from The International, eSports has never been so immersive.
There are also increasing measures being employed to increase interest in eSports from those who have never experienced them before, such as the implementation of the new Dota 2 Newcomer’s Stream, which provides a deeper explanation of the game for those who have not seen Dota (Defence Against The Ancients) 2 played either as a game in general or as an eSport before.
eSports have a large built-in consumer base already. Why? Because so many people love video games; over 1.2 billion people play them. Could eSports have gotten this big - and not only sustained its growth but expanded upon it - if there was not a growing demand for it? Not a chance.
One of the effects of the gaming globalisation is that there is a constant demand for eSports that is not abating. Accordingly, consumer spending on eSports tickets and merchandise during 2017 is expected to reach $64 million.
How to bet on eSports
It is not just eSports themselves that are conducted online, but also the majority of eSports betting. With handy payment methods such as Bitcoin and PayPal, betting upon eSports online is easy.
Whereas PayPal is now a common method of paying for a multitude of different items and services online, the Bitcoin currency is still somewhat confined to the online betting sphere, although not exclusively so.
Bitcoin as a manner of payment was first introduced in 2009 with the premise of an online currency that transcends the barriers of national currencies by utilising code as its trading material, which is why it is termed a cryptocurrency. As such, Bitcoins are "mined" and verified by a digital ledger called the blockchain.
This makes use of Bitcoins easy and quick. After being mined, Bitcoins are then able to be easily moved onwards again throughout the blockchain, effectively constituting a method of rapid transaction. Designed and released by a programmer or programming unit under the name of Satoshi Nakamoto, the transactions are anonymous and count in at over 260,000 in number per day.
Furthermore, Bitcoins are a growing market, with more and more entering circulation every hour. PayPal, on the other hand, adds an extra layer of security and allows for payment through a number of other methods.
Betting on eSports is, along with eSports themselves, continuing to grow.
It is predicted that by 2020 a total of 19.4 million to 32.5 million bettors will bet between $23.5 billion and $42.9 billion on eSports, producing a resulting revenue of $1.8 billion to $3.3 billion. Large tournaments, such as The International for MOBA Dota 2, the League of Legends World Championship Series, Dreamhack, WESG and Evo (Evolution Championship Series), often offer monumental prize pools.
The International takes the lead in offering the largest prize pools to date for the last two consecutive years: Valve's annual tournament in Seattle held a prize pool of over $20 million in 2016 and this year has seen that figure exceeded, at over $23 million.
With big prize pools for the teams competing in the tournaments, the eSports betting pools for them are accordingly considerably large. Both the popularity of eSports and eSports betting look likely only to grow in future, and grow sustainably at that.