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Esports has come a long way since the early days of hosting video game competitions in garages. With the esports spectrum growing at a rapid rate, featuring more and more games, and attracting an increasing number of fans across the board, that begs the question – is esports a sport? Can it be considered a conventional sport? What even makes a real sport? We'll be discussing all this and more below, so read on!
Before we start answering all those questions, we must first better understand what esports really is. In short, esports are professionally-organised tournaments in competitive video games, played by professional gamers, and watched by millions of fans across the globe. There’s even a multimillion-dollar esports betting industry that features betting markets on video game competitions.
Mind you, gaming and esports are not the same thing. You can think of esports as competitive gaming – only the top 1% of gamers can play esports on a professional level, and the same can be said for professional athletes of all other sports out there.
But, does not mean esports is not a real sport? More on that later on. For now, let’s focus on the different types of esports disciplines!
Let’s take a look at the various types of esports disciplines so you know what we are referring to in the rest of the article:
First-person shooters are still among the most popular esports disciplines out there, and the primary candidates are ranking superbly well. They are as follows:
A multiplayer online battle arena, also known as MOBA, is a game featuring 5v5 battlefield on a three-lane map with minions, turrets, neutral monsters, and 100+ playable characters with unique abilities and roles. The most popular titles are:
These are your typical simulations of worldwide-popular sports like football, basketball, hockey, and similar:
Let’s not forget about racing simulations. Even though they’re slowly losing the race with popularity (pun intended), the pandemic restrictions helped get them back into the mainstream, at least for a brief period of time.
Battle Royale games haven’t lost one bit of their initial importance – they’re still played and adored by millions of gamers worldwide. The following Battle Royale games are the reason why BR esports still exist:
Last but not least – real-time strategies. This is an ancient esports discipline that’s still showing signs of life but is nowhere near as popular as it used to be. Here are some of its main specimens:
In order to answer the question – is esports a sport? – here’s the most basic definition of sports we could find:
“An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”
There are three main factors we need to take into account when talking about real sports. They are the following:
What about other unconventional sports whose nature is still being questioned? Esports is not the only example – take poker and chess as the biggest specimens in the “unconventional sports” category.
Both poker and chess are widely considered as sports. But, if we apply the basic definition of sports to them, they have the same exact issue as esports – they don’t involve physical exertion.
Roughly the same can be said for disciplines like competitive eating and fishing. The lines between conventional sports and disciplines which feature competitions and require skills (but perhaps not physical exertion or structured tournaments) are getting blurrier with each passing year.
Despite not involving any sort of physical exertion, some characteristics of esports make it eligible to be considered as a real sport. They are as follows:
First things first – the biggest reason why esports can be considered as real sports is the presence of massive esports tournaments. We’re talking about professionally-organised competitions here; competitions possess complex structures and are often a part of even bigger series and pro circuits. We’re talking about multimillion-dollar events held in some of the biggest and most mesmerising venues worldwide!
Even though the esports market is showing off unprecedented lucrativeness, the main source of its market value is still coming from various sponsorships. The recent growth of viewership numbers has resulted in a massive spike of new sponsorship deals that are bound to keep pushing the entire esports industry for the next couple of years.
On top of investments, the esports scene also has massive betting exposure too. Not just in the form of sponsorships (Betway partnering up with Ninjas in Pyjamas being the perfect example) but in the form of available betting markets for players interested in placing esports bets.
Only the top 1% of gamers will ever have the chance to play at a semi-pro or professional level of esports. The biggest esports tournaments take years of practice, years of experience, and a ton and a half of raw talent. Only the best of the best; the crème de la crème of a game’s competitive scene will get a chance to compete at the biggest esports tournaments.
One thing is certain – esports has created a new type of a digital superstar. Gamers like Faker and Perkz became pretty much household names just by being good at the game they play.
The viewership of the biggest esports events is bound to surprise you. No matter how big you are on the whole esports sphere, the viewership of events like LoL Worlds and PUBG Global Championship are bound to be a lot higher than you’d expect.
Let’s take the 2021 League of Legends World Championship as the perfect example. Peak viewership was during the grand finals between EDward Gaming and DWG KIA – over 4 million viewers. On average, the event had roughly 1.3 million viewers, which is an absolutely massive number.
Let’s take that number and compare it to the viewership of a conventional sport like tennis. The 2020 US Open averaged 1.7 million viewers on ESPN, which was a record-breaking high at that moment. A more recent event, PGA Tour’s Canadian Open, had 3.67 million peak viewers during the final round.
So, long story short, as far as viewership goes, the biggest esports events can go toe to toe with some of the biggest sporting spectacles.
Well, if we’re going to be labeling it off the primary definition of sports that requires physical exertion, then we are afraid esports is not a sport. Esports has everything else up its sleeve – millions of fans worldwide, professionally-organised tournaments, as well as structured competitions that feature both individual and team-based contests.
But, for the most part, esports don’t require physical exertion… at least not in the way football, volleyball, and handball do. While esports does require skills across the entirety of its spectrum (no one can deny that), there’s no real physical element to it… and if we’re adhering to the primary definition of sports, esports simply fails to make the cut.
Here’s a tricky one – why are people pushing esports to be recognised as real sports anyway? Would that change anything at all?
In short – it wouldn’t change a darned thing.
The only thing that would happen is media coverage. Media outlets from all over the world would be buzzing for a week or two about how video games are now classified as real sports; how the likes of Faker and mONESY are now equal to the likes of Neymar and Mbappe.
No real change, just a whole lot of media fuss, really…
It’s difficult to say. When it comes to popularity, esports are likely to overtake sports, but only in certain parts of the world, primarily countries like Southeast Asia and Asia in general. Even today, those regions are heavily esports-centric; Asian society has already accepted esports as their primary source of entertainment, which is why the numbers are experiencing constant growth.
As for the rest of the world, though, we are not so sure that esports will overtake conventional sports. This is especially true for football, the most important of all unimportant things. No matter how big and strong the esports industry becomes, it will probably never be able to square off with football.
So, is esports a real sport? Well, there you have it, our view on the topic. In the end, we can conclude the following: even though esports cannot be considered as real sports based on the primary definition of sports, their competitive nature, ever-growing popularity, and professional competitions are enough to completely blur the lines between the two.
According to the primary definition of sports, no esports (other than VR esports) qualify as sports. That’s because, even though they do require skill and have professionally- organised competitions, they do not require physical exertion. However, keep in mind that if the world was going by this definition of sports, chess would not fit the bill either.
If we’re only going by the primary definition of sports, then VR esports is the only form of esports that can actually be considered as a conventional sport. The equation is quite simple – VR esports add a certain level of physical exertion into the mix. If regular esports aren’t worthy of being dubbed as sports, then VR esports surely are!
Even though the popularity of esports events is at an all-time high, they are still way off the popularity and importance of many conventional sports. But we are not suggesting things will necessary stay the same in the long run. Esports franchises are experiencing massive year-over-year growth and it wouldn’t be impossible to see them top their conventional brethren a decade from now.
Yes, you can bet on esports online on a wide variety of online bookmakers. If you’re just starting out, you might be surprised to see just how many online betting sites feature esports markets. We’re not just talking about the biggest esports events either. Nowadays, you can bet on virtually any esports tournament out there, so pick your poison wisely.
There are a number of esports titles that have to be pointed out here. Primarily, we’re referring to the big guns made by Riot Games and Valve; the likes of League of Legends, VALORANT, Dota 2, and CS:GO. But there are other esports gems too: games like Rainbow Six, Rocket League, and FIFA are bearing massive importance. The same can be said for mobile esports titles, like PUBG Mobile, MLBB, and so on.
Through our in-depth guides and reviews, we are focused on providing the best insights into esports betting.