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Around the World in 80 Games: How eSports Has Become a Truly Global Phenomenon

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One of the great things about eSports is that it’s a competitive hobby that anyone can enjoy, anywhere, as long as they have an internet connection and a device to play on.

When it comes to professional eSports gaming, the landscape is truly international – confirmed by the recent Valorant Champions Tour event in Iceland. Over one million viewers tuned in to the tournament in Reykjavík, and they bore witness to an event that can best be described as ‘global’. Twelve teams reached the latter stages, and of those, the top six all came from different continents.

The winners, OpTic Gaming, returned to the USA with a cheque for $200,000 (around £160,000) burning a hole in their collective pockets. The gallant runners-up, LOUD, are one of the finest eSports teams emanating from Brazil, while bronze medallists ZETA DIVISION are based in Japan.

To complete the international picture, Paper Rex (Singapore), DRX (South Korea) and G2 Esports (Spain) finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively, ensuring that four of the seven continents were represented.

Growing the Game

Of course, Valorant is just one game enjoyed by the eSports community, but this general trend for worldwide competition is evident in the likes of Dota 2, League of Legends, Call of Duty and other specialisms as well.

In the recent LoL LCS Spring 2022 event, for example, ten MVPs were crowned – five in the group stage and five for the finals. Their nationalities? American, Canadian, South Korean, Danish, Turkish and Australian. How’s that for globetrotting!?

There are such low barriers to entry to competitive gaming that there’s little wonder that eSports has proven so popular. You don’t need to be physically fit; you don’t need to come from a privileged background, and you don’t need to be benefitting from a gruelling training regime. Anybody can become a classy operator in competitive gaming if they have a natural knack for their chosen game(s) or put the hours of practice in.

World-class marathon runners will tell you that, at times, they don’t enjoy the sheer physical toll of their training. But you won’t hear the elite eSports gamers complaining about the fact that, simply by playing their chosen titles, they are readying themselves for top-tier competition.

Organisers of the key events have not been blind to the worldwide appeal of eSports gaming, and they have implemented the infrastructure that has made it so much easier for players in all four corners of the globe to get involved.

And the numbers themselves speak volumes. According to estimates, 240 million people around the globe are considered to be eSports ‘viewers’, with expanding markets in the Middle East and Africa – traditionally some of the slowest regions to jump on board – and mobile gaming ensuring rapid growth in India and Brazil to name just two nations.

As far as live streaming is concerned, predictions suggest that the global audience could reach 840 million, and the international growth of associated sectors also stretches to the betting industry – today, punters from America, Europe and Asia can wager on eSports events, while the growing interest in Oceania for gaming is confirmed in the advancement of eSports betting in Australia, with many of the leading bookmakers offering odds and even live streams of their own. Sites like this will provide tips, and many will offer apps to give bettors an enhanced experienced compared to the web browser.

Having a Riot

While not universally beloved by players, it’s hard to argue with the role that Riot Games have played in turning competitive eSports into a truly international industry. The originators of Valorant and League of Legends have created a global pathway to success via their regional leagues, which ensure that players on pretty much every continent can compete, earn prize money and secure a deal with one of the major franchises there.

All told, Riot caters for over 100 teams in 14 different geographical regions around the world, using League of Legends as a platform upon which to hone their craft and create the networks upon which LoL and subsequently Valorant can thrive.

Each region is guaranteed a spot at some of the biggest events in the Valorant calendar, and that democratic approach is now only good for the global appeal of the game. It also ensures that the quality of play around the world continues to improve – breaking down some barriers that, perhaps, existed in the early days of competitive LoL.

Riot has been something of a forefather of eSports gaming, and now other key names like Valve, Activision and Blizzard Entertainment are tapping into the global interest by creating structured tournaments for players around the world.

As a result, competitive gaming will continue to grow and grow, which will attract more ‘institutional’ investors into franchises and increase the prize money to be played for. That will entice more players into eSports… and the cycle will continue. These are truly outstanding times for gamers with the ambition to turn their hobby into a viable career.

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Christopher Stern
Christopher Stern is a Washington-based reporter. Chris spent many years covering tech policy as a business reporter for renowned publications. He has extensive experience covering Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commissions. He is a graduate of Middlebury College. Email:[email protected]

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