Esports (or electronic sports) is a form of a video game competition.
As Esports grew, tournaments became larger, prize money became bigger and more gamers started playing professionally. Gamblers saw this as a great betting opportunity. As a result, multiple betting platforms began to emerge.
There are multiple reasons Esports and betting go hand in hand. Esports is a multi-million dollar industry. In fact, it is expected to reach a revenue of an incredible 1 billion dollars in 2019. There is a lot of money in the industry, and where there is money – betters are sure to follow. Similarly, Esports attracts a lot of fans and players alike. A lot of them try to cash in their knowledge of various teams, tactics, and strategies.
The Birth & Rise of Esports
While it might seem like competitive gaming is a 21st-century phenomenon, the history of Esports dates way back to the 1970s, with arcade games being the basis of competition.
1970s & 1980s
The earliest Esport competition occurred on 19 October 1972. Students at Stanford University were invited to play Spacewar. The winner of the competition won a year’s subscription to Rolling Stones magazine.
Atari held a Space Invaders tournament in 1980. This was the first Esports tournament on a fairly larger scale – more than 10 thousand gamers participated.
During the 1980s. video game tournaments became featured in popular newspapers, such as Time. This era became known as the “golden age of arcade video games”, when arcade games became a part of pop culture.
In 1990, Nintendo organized the Nintendo World Championships, which toured across the United States. It was one of the largest Esport tournaments to date in the ‘90s.
One of the most notable games that paved the way for Esports we know today was Street Fighter 2 (released in 1991). Before then, video games determined the winner by who had the biggest score. Street Fighter popularized the concept of “direct” competition, with players facing one another in a versus battle to determine who is the best.
The 1990s were also important as the era when computers became cheaper and more powerful, and the internet became more widespread. As a result, tournaments for computer games were also organized, such as the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) in 1997. This moment was pivotal in changing the platform from arcades to PC gaming.
In the 2010s, Esports as an industry grew tremendously larger. This resulted in an incredible increase in viewership and prize money. Although somewhat large tournaments had been organized before the 2000s, the number of tournaments grew drastically in the following decade. In fact, there were around 10 Esports tournaments organized in 2000. In 2010, that number rose to around 260.
The Esports and gaming industry has been growing exponentially ever since.
Betting on Esports
Esports is a multinational, ever-expanding industry which is currently valued at $900 million. But the number of participants and the money invested in it keeps growing year after year. Which makes it natural that people who are willing to bet on these events are drawn to it.
At first, Esport betting didn’t seem as if it would become a popular thing. But with the rise of competition and tournaments so has the interest in betting on games risen. Most people who are interested in Esports and gaming possess a lot of knowledge about the rules, teams, and individuals. So it is only natural that they want to earn some money by investing a few dollars in it.
In its early beginnings, Esport betting was not sanctioned and was not deemed as legal. There were no authorized sites since betting organizations were still developing with the Esports itself. Esports is still a fairly young industry so it took some time of organized and legal betting to be made.
Skin betting was one of the first problems since it was seen as a doggy way to make money. Fortunately, eAthletes took it upon themselves to disregard this type of betting on Esports as illegal.
Today there are a bunch of sites who are organized in terms of rules and legalities. Esports betting has even expanded and has become a usual and normal form of betting like other more regular forms of sports betting that we are used to.
Most Popular Video Games in Esports
Dota 2 is one of the most popular video games in the world. It is a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) game. It was developed and published by Valve Corporation. The history of Dota 2 is fairly long and complicated. Its prequel, Defense of the Ancients, was created as a mod for Blizzard’s Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos in 2003. Valve acquired the rights to DotA in 2009 and released a modernized version of the original mod as Dota 2 in 2013.
The gameplay consists of two teams of five players who battle against each other. Each player takes control of their own heroes which come with individual abilities and powers. In order to win a match, the team has to destroy the other team’s center, called the Ancient. During play, each hearo gains experience points allowing him or her to level up and become stronger.
Dota 2’s biggest tournament is called The International. The first International was held in 2011 before Dota 2 was even officially released. The prize pool for the tournament was $1.6 million. In the past decade, The International has consistently surpassed its own prize pool from the previous year. In 2018, the prize reached an amazing $25 million.
Since The International has one of the biggest prize pools in the Esports industry, it is one of the most entertaining video games to bet on.
In June 2019, Valve released a strategy-based game called Dota Underlords. Even though it is still in early access mode, Dota Underlords has made its way into Esports, as tournaments are already being organized for the newly published game. While betting on Underlords is still not viable, it certainly will be soon.
Dota 2 and Dota Underlords are free to play on the Steam platform.
Counter-Strike (CS) is a multiplayer first-person shooter game. Even though it is not a MOBA, it shares some similarities with the aforementioned Dota 2. For example, CS was also released as a mod (for Half-Life). It bears a very simple premise; Two teams battle each other (terrorists vs the police) in order to win the match. The offensive side usually tries to bomb a certain position while the defensive side is there to protect the given sight. The game ends when all the participants are dead or when a site is successfully bombed. As you can see pretty easy and very fun. That is where Counter Strike draws its attraction towards players. The rights to the game were also acquired by Valve Corporation.
Counter-Strike is, in fact, a series of games that began in 1999. Some notable titles in the series include Condition Zero and Source. But the most notable game of the series is Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, commonly referred to as CS: GO. CS: GO was released in 2012. The game draws about 11 million players per month and has an active competitive scene. Although the prize pool for CS:GO tournaments is much smaller than that of Dota 2, it is still a very popular game and there is no doubt that the tournaments will continue to grow in the future.
Like most of popular Esports tournaments, so has Counter Strike: GO managed to attract a lot of people who are interested in betting their money on the outcome of the matches. The very popularity of the game is even more emphasized with the amount of CS:GO betting which is available now. Many people who play the game, follow the teams and are fans of the sport actually bet and earn money this way.
CS: GO is free to play on Steam since December 2018.
League of Legends
League of Legends (LoL) is another MOBA game that made its way into competitive gaming. LoL was inspired by Defense of the Ancients, which was a mod taken from the Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne game (the prequel to Dota 2). It was developed and published by Riot Games.
The gameplay is pretty simple. The player is the summoner who takes control of a champion who is placed on the battleground. Each character comes with his or her unique abilities and a skill set necessary for the battle. The goal of the game, if there are two teams battling against each other, is to destroy your enemy’s Nexus or the central structure. There are other fun modes to play as well, like free-for-all mode.
League of Legends is one of the most consistently played games on the world, with over 100 million active players every month. The biggest LoL tournament is called League of Legends World Championship. The 2018 World Championship had a prize pool of $6.5 million. While the prizes aren’t as large as other big Esports tournaments, LoL generally has the most players worldwide.
LoL is also very interesting for people who bet on Esports and is like many other games on this list attractive to place bets on. Spectators tune in not only to see how the game is played but also to see if they have won some money that they have placed on their favorite team.
Overwatch is a multiplayer first-person shooter game. The game was developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment. Compared to other Esports games, Overwatch is a fairly new game as it was released in 2016. Nonetheless, it has managed to garner a lot of popularity in a very short time within the Esports industry.
The concept of the game consists of two teams who battle it against each other. The teams consist of six players and whoever remains, in the end, wins the round for their team. There are 30 Heroes to choose from in the roster. Each Hero is a different character with unique abilities. There are three general categories of players so you need to choose a role that best fits the team. Participants make teams based on their abilities in order to win matches.
Blizzard Entertainment is the official organizer of the Overwatch League, the biggest tournament for the game. Although fairly new, in its first year (2018), the League featured a prize pool of $3.5 million. There is no doubt that the Overwatch League will continue to grow and attract more players. The interest for this game is also growing in betting circles as more people who follow Esports are willing to put their cash on the winner of the tournament. We can only wait and see how big Overwatch will actually get as the community is growing each second.
Starcraft II, also referred to as Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, is a real-time strategy video game. It was also developed and published by Blizzard Entertainment, like most of the popular Esports game available today. But compared to the other ones, Starcraft is one of their earliest releases which is still popular today. The game is a sequel to the original 1998 Starcraft.
What makes this game unique are its improved features, great storytelling elements, and stellar gameplay. Starcraft II greatly improved the flaws of the first game and build up upon them earning this game a 93% score from Metacritic. On its initial release, the game sold over three million copies and was labeled as one of the fastest selling video games of its era.
Starcraft II is played professionally all around the world. The best players are generally from South Korea as the game is very popular there. Professional players in South Korea even have their own official game licenses, excusing them from school for big events, as the majority of players are still teenagers or younger.
The most popular competition is the StarCraft II World Championship Series, which is the primary Starcraft tournament organized by Blizzard Entertainments that they started in 2012. But in 2013, other leagues were introduced like the Korean Global StarCraft II League and the Intel Extreme Masters.
Since 2017, Starcraft II was rebranded as a free-to-play game, making it available for everyone. This was a move to popularize the game since the popularity has been subsiding in recent times.
Call of Duty
Call of Duty is another first-person shooter franchise. This one is published by Activision in 2003. The original game focused on the story situated in Word War II, with four games released in that arc, while the newer games focus more on modern and futuristic locations. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 4 is officially the continuation of the Call of Duty franchise, with the Modern Warfare games consisting of five new titles. Additional and popular spin-offs include Call of Duty: Black Ops and Call of Duty: World at War.
The Call of Duty franchise is one of the most popular ones in the world with a total of 250 million copies sold by 2016. At the same time, they have earned over 15 billion USD from their products.
CoD games made their way into Esports in 2006 with Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Over the years and with the release of new titles from the franchise these too were added to Esport tournaments. There are a lot of CoD games which are now included and are a part of Major League Gaming. Probably the biggest tournament known today is the Call of Duty: Experience 2011, which was conceived as part of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 release.
Competitive play is most popular in Europe and North America. Most participants compete in tournaments or latter matches.
Rainbow Six is a tactical first-person shooter game originally created by Red Storm Entertainment. The video games were actually created based on the novels written by Tom Clancy, more precisely based on his original novel, which bears the same name, released in 1998 which revolves around terrorist counterstrike units called Rainbow.
The Rainbow Six franchise consists of over 20 games available on different kinds of platforms. Ubisoft is the current developer and they release their games for Windows, Xbox, and PS, while Gameloft publishes the mobile versions of Rainbow Six games.
What is unique to this game and what appeals to many players is the fact that you have to combine tactics and teamwork in order to complete the mission of the game. Relying on stealth is favored more than just relying on mere firepower.
Rainbow Six is also one of the most popular titles when it comes to Esports. Currently, you can see teams compete against each other in tactical shooting on ESL Pro League. Although, the popularity of these games is not as it once was, there are still many teams who still play. Also, there are a lot of bets being made on Rainbow Six Esports events.