The rise of virtual gaming has been happening for quite some time with e-sports at the helm. With the current state of affairs globally, there has been a 2020 virtual gaming revolution so to speak with its popularity soaring to new heights.
Virtual Gaming Has Grown Very Quickly
In 2020, virtual gaming like esports, for example, is considered a sport. While that might not sound strange to some depending on your age, for most of us that have lived in a world where gaming was just a hobby that adolescents over indulged in, the growth has been simply amazing. The current global pandemic has only sped that up but the reality, it’s been happening for quite some time.
You see people have been watching ESports on Twitch for the better part of a decade. For those unfamiliar with Twitch, it is a streaming platform that focuses on video game live streaming and broadcasts esports competitions as well. For those of you that have seen young people watching others play video games online, this might seem like a strange phenomenon. For millennials, it is not only the norm, it is just as popular as watching some of the biggest professional sports leagues in North America.
Twitch first started in mid-2011 and by 2013 had 45 million viewers a month. One year later, it was considered one of the peak sources of internet traffic in the United States, and that was 6 years ago. That is why Amazon paid $970 million to acquire Twitch back in August of 2014. Today, Twitch has 15 million viewers per day with 3 million active broadcasters per month. These numbers have forced the world to stand up and take notice of virtual gaming.
Virtual Gaming Audience Will Continue to Mature
Most of the people that were watching esports 10 years ago were most likely under the age of 20. In fact, it has been proven the majority of virtual gaming fans are somewhere between 15-30 years of age. With that in mind, even the fans that were there since the very beginning are still young. There is no reason to think any of those people have stopped watching because the statistics show they haven’t.
Like any new league, there will be a core fan base and that core will help spread the popularity of the game because they’ve been around since the beginning and are invested in it. The perfect example of that is Major League Soccer. When the MLS was founded in 1996, they had a successful season in year one but attendance immediately started to decline which was a bit predictable. Soccer has always had trouble finding a place in the North American sports landscape but something was different this time around.
The first thing is that the World Cup had happened in the U.S in 1994, just two years before the inaugural season. Part of getting the World Cup bid was that the U.S had to establish a professional league. When it debuted in 1996, there were certain rule changes that tried to “Americanize” the game.
Not only did those changes not work in terms of attracting new domestic fans, but it also alienated traditional soccer fans that did not support the rule changes. The other issue was the stadiums that held the games. Most teams were playing in NFL or college football stadiums which were way too big for MLS crowds. Once teams, starting with the Columbus Crew, started building soccer-specific stadiums, the league’s popularity began to surge.
The point here is, once MLS figured out how to cater to their core audience, new fans started to pay attention. Today, the MLS has the 7th highest attendance of any professional soccer league in the world which seemed impossible back in 1996. The esports continues to gain momentum with millennials, we should expect to see them grow exponentially in the next decade.
League of Legends Take Virtual Gaming to New Heights
The League of Legends championship series launched back in 2013 and the number of views that they get certainly rivals the NHL and MLB. In 2015, the championship final for League of Legends was watched by 36 million people. This past year’s final was held at the Staple Center just to give you an idea of how popular virtual gaming has become.
As a result, there is a lot of money to be made in virtual gaming. This is the key here because unlike traditional professional sports, you don’t have to be able to run faster, jump higher, or be more accurate than the average person. Anyone can buy a video game console and put in the requisite hours to become a pro. Obviously, not everyone will have the skill to make it to the professional ranks however an entire generation of gamers, who would play for free regardless, can now look at virtual gaming as a real career opportunity.
That more than anything else is proof that virtual gaming and esports are here to stay and will one day be considered among the top American professional sports if it isn’t already. For anyone who thinks that the last line is an exaggeration in any way, you should check out ESPN for the latest esports information because they’ve already stood up and taken notice.