For most of the late 90’s and early 2000’s the seeds that would eventually grow to be modern E-Sports were slowly being nurtured. Groups of passionate fans gathered in small venues with fold out chairs and tables to take part in LAN tournaments. All to prove themselves the best. Whether they were playing Halo, Starcraft, or Counter Strike, these early players were driven by the desire to be the best and pure passion.
The prize pool and viewership of those early tournaments was nothing compared to those of today. A few people playing for a few hundred dollars with no potential to stream it was standard, now E-Sports events fill arenas and has College Football levels of viewership. In fact, the most recent League of Legends World Championship Series Finals reached hundreds of millions of people and averaged over 14 million viewers.
For reference 14 million viewers is almost 3 times as many as the just over 5 million viewers the most popular NHL Stanley Cup final to date was able to pull in. In fact, peak viewership sat close to 43 million people, which is just over the average viewership of the 2016 Major League Baseball World Series. Legaue of Legends consistently pulls in more viewers than various college and professional football playoff games. It is has grown to the point that it’s safe to say it is as mainstream as it gets.
These numbers have helped propel E-Sports to the mainstream and help sustain the millions of dollars in contracts and prize pools that help give these tournaments life.
E-Sports have come a long way in a short time, they have busted into the mainstream and among certain demographics they are far more popular than traditional sports. There is very little barrier to entry when it comes to watching, no cable required. Being able to play the same game as the online pros right there from home also give ESports a unique edge traditional sports simply cannot replicate.