It’s no secret that eSports is on the rise. Rather it’d be woefully ignorant at this point to suggest otherwise. However, while the conclusion is unanimous the why behind the meteoric rise of a previously niche media platform is up to debate, with several prevailing theories dominating the conversation. By utilizing Blizzard’s newly founded Overwatch League as a model, we are afforded a more concrete understanding as to how this new age of competitive gaming came about, and what popularizes the current formula in today’s scramble for entertainment. We attest this phenomenon equally to both the adoption of the traditional sports model with regard to league construction and presentation, as well as the very nature of competitive gaming itself and the appeal it garners, including the draw of video gaming in general.
Within the somewhat narrow confines of traditional sports lies an undeniably successful equation for success both social and financial, and it is through partially emulating this that eSports has begun to garner a fraction of the success traditional sports have been capitalizing on for years. For years competitive gaming has been a club sport, with everything from scouting to championships being done on an essentially amateur level both in practice and in scope. What opportunity there was for any professional career was shackled by the low amount of funding as well as the low accessibility of any way to view these contests. This is where traditional sports structure comes into the Overwatch League (OWL), bringing with it a city-centered model focused on catering to geographic inclination rather than arbitrary commitments to club teams. This in turn addressing the issue of funding, with cities chomping at the bit to put their name on a new franchise, paying tens of millions of dollars just to secure a spot in the inaugural season, and thousands more to secure high-ranking players, with the upper-echelon receiving six-figure pay per season. This is not to say that venerable and respected club teams are going the way of the dodo, instead they, having been involved with the industry for quite some time, adapted alongside traditional media. As it stands currently, six of the twenty OWL teams are owned by professional eSports labels, including such legendary teams as OpTic Gaming and NRG Esports, showing that even older video game agencies recognize the benefits of a traditional model going forward. The city-based system also allows competitive gaming to take more of a center stage, no longer regulated to back-alley streaming sites the OWL sits front and center taking prime time slots on ESPN and creating around-the-clock content on Twitch for hundreds of thousands of viewers to tune into every night of the week. Cities want to thrust their new digital capital into the spotlight in any way they can, whether it be through merchandising, advertising, or simply publicizing the brand name: anything they can do in order to collect on their investment, and while this may be for financial reasons, the attention the league and by extension these teams receive only helps the fanbase grow and the quality of competitive gaming increase. Additionally, by structuring its regular season and playoff schedule around a traditional model, the OWL avoids the weariness of constant play that both viewers and players alike dread. (543)
I understand it is missing references now, but this will be addressed at a later date.