Inside the World of Professional Gaming

by Katie Linendoll

photo: Blizzard Entertainment

photo: Blizzard Entertainment

Video games have come a long way since the days of Pac-Man and Mario Bros. In 2018 alone, the gaming industry generated $43.4 billion. And as this industry continues to grow, many games are becoming household names and gameplay is being taken to a whole new level. So, what’s the next big thing to come? Esports, otherwise known as professional gaming, is on the rise and selling out arenas around the world. Here are just a few staggering statistics that will blow your gaming mind:

  • There are currently about 400 million players worldwide

  • By 2021 this industry is predicted to grow by an additional 14% to upwards of 500+ million players

  • Players are treated like professional athletes with access to massage therapists, coaches, and chefs

  • Prize money for the biggest tournaments can be in the millions 

  • Esport arenas are popping up everywhere in places from Philadelphia to Ohio State University and Las Vegas

  • Many major NBA teams now have professional gaming teams 

  • It is in contention to become an Olympic sport

As someone who has covered many professional sports (seven years at ESPN) as well as technology and other gaming events like E3, you wouldn’t think that I’d be surprised by the hype around professional gaming...yet, here I am, equal parts amazed as well as eager to see what’s next in this rapidly growing industry. I find myself intrigued not by the amount of people playing video games (afterall, I can easily throw down some serious gaming hours) but rather by the huge crowds watching these professional gamers play. And I am not alone. My friends and colleagues are just as infatuated. In fact, the Creative Director of my production company has watched 600+ hours of Overwatch games over the past three years. 

I’m also fascinated by the complex logistics. Similar to the operation of other professional sporting teams, these players have access to everything from massage therapists to coaches, psychologists, and even chefs. And we can’t forget the millions of dollars of prize money waiting to be won at the major tournaments like the Overwatch League Grand Final. 

A couple of weeks ago, my team and I attended what is known as the “Super Bowl” of professional gaming and were absolutely blown away. This event was so massive, it was held at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia—home to the Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers. The venue completely sold out and packed with celebrities like globally-renowned DJ, Zedd, who also happens to be a huge Overwatch gamer. 

Lastly, I must mention how universities are even beginning to take notice of the gaming industry. My own alma mater, RIT, erected its own Esports arena and has one of the most successful majors for gaming development. Some universities even have Esports scholarships available. 

I think it’s safe to say that professional gaming is here to stay. See for yourself in a video my team produced from the Overwatch Grand Finals.

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