The Meteoric Rise Of Esports

April 22, 2022
4 min read

Is it a form of sports or not?’ remains an important question people ask when discussing esports. Indeed, its definition has many broad implications for financing, regulation and supervision, and the gaming industry, to name but a few.

 In this blog post, we will delve deeper into this question, asking

  •  ‘What is esports exactly?’
  • ‘What are the risks associated with it?’ 
  • And,  ‘Should it be regulated the same way as sports to reduce risk?’

Esports: Sports Moves Online

Esports are competitions between video game players. Today, those competitions are organised similarly to large national and international football or tennis competitions. There are both national and international esports federations, such as the European Esports Federation.

The number of viewers, as well as the money involved in these competitions, has snowballed. When traditional sports competitions were shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, the growth of esports competitions accelerated. Even sports leagues like Formula 1 and MotoGP saw the opportunity and started to offer virtual contests. 

Rapid Growth

In 2021, 474 million people watched esports worldwide. By 2024, this number is expected to grow to 577.2 million. People watch tournaments mainly via live streams, but they also come together in stadiums for large-scale competition finals. Many of these live streams take place on platforms such as Youtube and Huzu, which generated 25 billion live hours watched in 2020Reports on esports have predicted that global revenues will reach $1.6 Billion by 2024, with large portions of this coming from sponsorships and advertising. 

Definition of Esports is Ongoing

Some countries like South Korea, China, Italy and Denmark have already responded to the boom and recognised esports as a sport, but many countries have not. As it seems, the hype is here to stay. So, a clear definition of esports would be helpful because following legislation, such as how health risks are considered and how side products, like gambling, are controlled, depends upon this. Rules and regulations are entrenched in whether esports is defined as a sport or not. 

Esports and Regulation

Esports needs special attention since the target group is very young, including those who play and watch games. Younger age groups are more vulnerable to gambling-related harms, which academics have found applies to esports in particular. There is also the issue of illegal gaming operators, as younger groups have been found to have less reluctance to play with these operators. This creates enormous risks related to age, payments, data safety and other topics. 

In addition, all the data on esports and its impacts are still not available. Furthermore, data between different providers has not been connected or analysed in depth. This makes understanding actual impacts and risks harder. Esports, therefore, faces a specific integrity issue. The faster that fully operating control bodies, such as those who monitor match-fixing attempts as in other sports, are set up, the quicker these risks can be reduced. 

National Esport Regulation

Some Latin American provinces and US and Canadian states have recently launched new betting regulations. Esports is already on their agenda. Examples such as Iowa, Arizona, Connecticut, Buenos Aires (Argentina) and Ontario show a new approach to regulating esports. The real question is, when will other markets catch on to this and revise their rules? Or will the risks created by esports remain unregulated going forward?