Debate Time: Esports vs Sports

by MaddOx
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I’ve heard many people complain about watching video games. “Why would you waste your time watching video games when you can play them yourself?”. But the same could be said about traditional sports too. I mean, can I kick a ball? Yes. But Would I class myself in the same category as my heroes such as Kenny Dalglish and Steven Gerrard? Of course not. As much as I’d love to score a goal in front of the Kop, I’m just not good enough. And it’s exactly the same with Esports.

Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you’re any good at it. And to see somebody playing at the top of their game against other top-quality players, whether they are playing video games or not can be an exhilarating experience. In fact, that’s not the only similarity between the two. Let’s take a look at how much they have in common. And you can let us know if you disagree in the comments below.

For the thousands in attendance and the millions watching around the world

Whilst some people may not realise Esports is that big a deal. It is. Trust me. Just like with traditional sports, thousands flock in attendance to fill arenas and millions watch from around the world at home. And one of the reasons it is better to watch Esports than the traditional variety is because the likes of Sky haven’t cornered the market yet, so despite some channels showing tournaments. Many of them can be found online, free to watch on services like Twitch, Youtube and Mixer.

In fact, there have been times where Esports events have actually outperformed traditional sports. Take South Korea for example; in 2014 the World Cup Stadium hosted the League of Legends World Championship, and over 40,000 people flooded the stadium, with over 32 million having watched the previous year’s final from around the world online. The team who fill that stadium full time, FC Seoul, that year’s K-League champions, managed only an average attendance of 18,183. That’s some difference.

Let’s not forget too, because Esports events can be played online, as long as you have a decent stable internet connection. Players can play from anywhere almost. There is no need to travel around the world to see your favourite people. They’re just a click away. Although, that may not always be a good thing, but we’ll discuss that later on.

Placing a wager

If there are multiple outcomes available, and it concerns just an ounce of chance, you can be sure people will be looking to make money off of it. And this is where Esports is no different from traditional Sports, with betting markets having grown substantially over the past few years.

At first, it was just as simple as picking a winning team, but now you can place bets on best performers, those who get most kills, how much a team will win by and so on. And if I’m honest, I only see it growing. It might not make as much money for the bookmakers as traditional sports, but you can be sure that Esports will likely level itself out in the future. Disagree? Let’s bet on it (little gambling joke).

Where’s the money at?

Since we’ve touched on money already, it makes sense to stay on the topic. But this time I’m talking about prize money. And you might be surprised at how much you can win for ‘just playing video games’.

Let’s take a look at one of the hottest games right now, Fortnite. Whilst I don’t like it, Epic Games have a great game here that is free-to-play, it purely makes its money from cosmetic items and battle passes. And last year saw them host their first Fortnite World Cup, in which a young British lad, Jaden “Wolfiez” Ashman, actually took home nearly £1,000,000. And he didn’t even win the thing. He came 2nd with his teammate.

First place in the tournament actually took home $3,000,000 for both the solo and duo tournaments, with the duo splitting the pot. That’s more than golfer Shane Lowry received for winning the British Open last year, by over $1,000,000. And whilst it may not compete with prize money for winning the Premier League or Champion’s League, how long will it really be before they do? And let’s not forget, a football club has much bigger costs to cover than a single young lad, lass, or non-binary person does.

I can’t hear you?

There is one place where I would say there is a big difference. And it could be a good or a bad thing, depending how you look at it. And it all comes down to atmosphere. Running a site like FULLSYNC, I’ve had a few opportunities to go and watch some Esports events, as well as going to watch it for my own enjoyment. The biggest I’ve been to though was the FACEIT Major: London 2018 for CS:GO, where I saw Astralis absolutely wipe the floor with Natus Vincere.

It was almost like watching Liverpool run away with the league this season. There was such a gulf in quality on the day, it was almost embarrassing, and the day ended much earlier than we had expected it to. That took a little sting away from the whole experience, but it also lacked a real atmosphere inside the Wembley Arena. Don’t get me wrong, there was chanting, cheering and a little jeering. But it was all friendly and polite, and just felt flat personally. And if people are just playing online, you get none of that either. Just keyboard warriors spamming chat windows.

Comparing that to some of the nights I’ve had at Anfield, for me Esports doesn’t come close. You’ll get the odd game where you might play someone like West Brom and the crowd is a little flat, but even in those games, the away fans cause a ruckus and, when either team scores, their fans erupt. And let’s not even talk about when I saw us beat Dortmund in the Europa League 4-3 with practically the last touch of the ball. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it, and doubt I ever will again.

A little pinch of this and a dash of that

There is one last similarity between the two I want to discuss, and I see it being one that Esports will probably come on on top of, and that’s variety. There are a tonne of traditional sports played around the world, we’ve already touched on football and golf, but you have tennis, rugby, gymnastics, water polo, the lists goes on. But many of these sports are already established and have been around much longer than I have. Still, there is a lot, and you could say there is something from everyone.

And the same goes for Esports. There is so much variety out there, and you even have actual sports being emulated by the likes of FIFA, PES and NBA 2K. But, there is so much more too. And if you think that Esports hasn’t really been around that long compared, and how many games are now played on competitive circuits, just like Rocket League for example. I don’t see the choice of games to watch reducing any time soon. In fact, as new games are released all the time, it is only going to grow more and more.

Plus, add into the fact how easy it is to develop a new game and actually mould it to how players want, or the viewers want, it is much more flexible than traditional sports. So when it comes to this side of things, Esports is the likely victor.

esports audience and stage

In conclusion…

Whilst traditional sports may have wider audiences now, plus bigger prize pools for many of the top competitions. Esports can’t be ruled out as a true competitor. It has grown considerably in such a short space of time and is arguably more accessible, with a really bright future ahead of it in terms of variety. But, whilst the prize pools and attendances are growing, sadly for me, the atmosphere just doesn’t compare. Will it evolve as the rest of the industry has? Who knows, but personally I don’t see how they can emulate that. And it’s why I’ll always be more drawn to watching traditional sport.

Let us know what you think in the comments. Do you prefer traditional sports or esports? Do you agree with the points I’ve made above? Or am I talking a load of jibberish? We’d love to hear your opinions.

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