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Once derided for daring to operate under the banner of “sports,” electronic sports - better known as eSports - have become increasingly entrenched in mainstream society around the world in recent years. Major tournaments now feature prize pools in excess of $10 million, and eSports broadcasts are among the most viewed events on the planet. The gambling community has taken notice of the undeniable force behind these competitions, and betting markets for them are making more and more appearances with bookmakers every day.
eSports encompass any kind of event where players compete against one another in video games. The sheer variety of games which can be used for such competitions in vast and varied, which serves to create a multitude of markets that appeal to a wide range of spectators. Whether it be in offerings like FIFA or League of Legends, fans enjoy seeing these games played at the highest levels of skill on the planet, and tune in by the millions. At this point it is estimated that over 70 million people worldwide watch eSports, and world championships in the biggest games can draw over 25 million viewers on their own. This ability to find large numbers of viewers across a spectrum of interests all under one eSports umbrella has caught the attention of advertisers and odds makers alike.
The earliest known video game completion took place at America’s Standford University all the way back in 1972, when students were invited to compete in the game Spacewar. The winner of the event claimed a year’s subscription to Rolling Stone magazine.
In 1980 game maker Atari held the first major-scale tournament, The Space Invaders Championship, which boasted over 10,000 competitors. Throughout the 80s, tournaments were held around the world, with the biggest drawback being that in order to compete with one another players needed to be in the same physical location, often in arcades.
As early as 1988, however, games found their way to the internet, allowing players across the world to play against one another. It was in the 2000s that the current culture around eSports truly began to emerge. In 2002 Major League Gaming was founded, and the organization still actively puts on major tournaments in a number of games. In South Korea, dedicated television channels covered games such as StarCraft and Warcraft III 24 hours a day, revealing the market for such programming.
In recent years, internet streaming through services such as Twitch has even better married consumer and product, taking advantage of the same internet that pushed eSports to their current level. Mainstream companies have recognized this, and made major pushes into the market as well, with Amazon spending nearly $1 billion to buy Twitch last year, while American sports broadcasting giant ESPN bought the rights to stream the League of Legends final on their ESPN3 platform. Recent years have also seen prize pools for individual tournaments exceed $10 million, with $5 million plus going to teams that claim the top spot.
There are eSports competitions running almost continually throughout the year, in a number of games and leagues. Many feature a seasonal format like traditional sports leagues. However, not every league or game registers enough interest to make the sports books. Below are some of the tournaments and seasons that DO, however.
A number of sports books such as Bet365 will add eSports odds for major tournaments, while forward-thinking bookies such as Paddy Power and 888 permanently list eSports alongside their traditional sports odds.
As for whom to bet on, it all depends on the competition. Some major teams like Samsung Galaxy (sponsored by the electronics company of the same name) and Team Liquid feature rosters that compete in a variety of games, other players and groups specialize in specific games, and can present major obstacles to some of the bigger teams. Fortunately, journalistic coverage of eSports is increasing alongside the sport itself, and some quick searching can give a gambler a good feel for the top teams and players heading into any competition.
eSports are here to stay, and odds makers have come to realize that. If they’re capitalizing on it, punters can too, so if you fancy a go at the burgeoning new markets, visit 888 Sports today!
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