Ever since eSports gained traction, there has been a perception that traditional activities and digital ones are at war. The battle has waged on for years, with lots of people claiming that real sports are constantly looking over their shoulders waiting for the moment when they are usurped by the new kid on the block.
You can see the logic. The rapid growth of the eSports industry is remarkable and is rarely bettered by other markets, with projections estimating it will be worth £5.45 billion by 2027. Traditional sports may still hold an advantage, yet it’s getting smaller and smaller every year. However, the reality is that they are two different products that don’t compete against one another. Read on to find out why this is the case, and how both may complement each other in the future.
On the surface, it appears as if people who are interested in traditional sports will enjoy the eSport products too. In some ways, this is true as certain titles can draw in a wide range of players from all walks of life. FIFA is an excellent example as football is the biggest sport in the world, and fans want to replicate their fantasies through their consoles.
But this doesn’t mean that supporters who regularly travel to matches or pay for TV subscriptions will suddenly stop. After all, the demographics of the two sectors vary greatly.
Firstly, in 2016, it was reported that the average age of a season ticket in the Premier League was 50 and over. For gamers, it’s well below this number at 34. Secondly, the people that will invest in the expansion of eSports are already involved and engaged. According to pundits, gamers who are aiming to turn professional spend around ten hours per day playing their favourite releases.
Casual usership rates could increase dramatically, as it has done in recent years. Still, these people often flit between mediums, making them less likely to change their habits for the sake of virtual sporting environments.
One sign that highlights the growth of eSports is the fact that bookmakers now offer odds on the latest tournaments. Resulting from bookmakers offering eSport odds, the craze took the online betting world by storm, generating an ever-increasing turnover for eSports betting sites. In fact, competition is so rife that review sites have sprung up to help players find the best ones, based on the range of games, customer service, and free bets. This is a result of an increase in tournaments. In 2000, there were fewer than ten tournaments for punters to place wagers on. In 2010, a massive 260 competitions were recorded, and it’s not illogical to assume the number is bigger 11 years later.
All of this points in the right direction for eSports, particularly as it is a powerful symbol of the industry’s standing in popular culture. However, betting and gaming have always been a thing. Counter-Strike, for example, has a community of tens of thousands of players who bet in-game items on CS that have value on Steam. The only difference now is that the community has regulated and professional platforms to place wagers on now that the main betting companies are entering the market to ensure they get a slice of the action.
While the fact that betting websites are now providing odds on the most important eSports competitions is incredible for eSports, the truth is that the demand has always existed. As a result, the two should continue to work side-by-side, rather than competing against one another for punters.
Part of the reason why traditional sports have stood the test of time is that the basic foundations hold to this day. Take football as an example. Yes, FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer make playing the game more accessible than ever, and there’s an entertainment element that’s hard to replicate elsewhere. Yet fans have several ways of indulging in the world’s leading sport, such as going outside and kicking a ball against a wall.
As the equipment required to play is minimal, football will never be elitist to those who truly love it. The same applies to almost every sport that is popular in the UK and the world, from rugby to cricket and tennis. There are some exceptions, such as motor racing. The lines between the real cars and the digital versions that race around the track are much more blurred, as highlighted by the remote F1 Grands Prix that took place in 2020 and that are making comebacks in 2021. With actual drivers investing in the technology, Formula One is more relatable as players can test their gaming abilities against the likes of Charles Leclerc and George Russell, as well as celebrities.
For the most, though, the properties that make traditional sports global commodities continue to flourish to this day, making it hard to replicate a real-life experience online or on a video console.
It’s clear to see that eSports don’t pose a threat to real sports. This isn’t because they are fads – they are genuine and the industry is going nowhere – but because they often supplement the fans’ experience.
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