Competitive gaming has become an international obsession that’s reaching every aspect of the gaming market. From humble beginnings and one-coin-at-a-time sessions in arcades, now everyone with a home console, computer, and cell phone is getting on this enticing scene. While technology all around us is progressing steadily, if it had not been for certain addictive titles, the Esports market would have never taken off. This is a glimpse into the history of competitive gaming, and the video games that defined different eras and paved the way for esports.
Esports is a world where particular titles stand out. Among the hundreds of games that get released every year, only a select few truly find their niche on the competitive scene. The unique thing about sports games is that there’s always some measure of competitive play for every new release. Series like Madden and FIFA are known for releasing new games annually, and every new edition is picked up by sports gamers. In the Esports arena, sports gamers divide their time between titles like NBA 2k, MLB The Show, UFC, and more.
Sports games comprise a unique branch of the Esports world. This specific community attracts players that don’t compete in or even casually enjoy other types of games. The fans watching live sports, playing games, and competing in fantasy sports leagues all create global ecosystems that are growing every year. There are many websites and platforms dedicated to sports fandom as well. These sites offer stats, news, strategy, the best matchup odds, and sites like DraftKings offer a $1000 sign up bonus for new players. Moreover, sports game developers are consistently updating their games with real-world data. When players are traded to different teams, or receive better rankings, the games reflect these changes. This oftentimes affects the strategy and gameplay of players that choose to compete.
When we look back on the real milestones of the Esports community, there are several titles that stand out in our memory. These are the classics, and even today these games and series are still played competitively by the most hardcore of gamers. While you can argue that Esports started in dimly lit arcades, it was not until internet gaming really took off that Esports found its footing. While the arcade scene was immensely popular and important, the competitive gaming world would never have taken off if it was confined to quarters and game cabinets. These are the titles that truly came along and lured gamers into the competitive scene.
The Counter-Strike series revolutionized Esports and set the standard for online competitive play. Considered one of the best FPS games of all time, there are as many fans of Counter-Strike as games like Call of Duty or Halo. There have been several CS releases over the years that have found massive success in the Esports scene, but it’s most recent main-series release is Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. You can find this title being played in every major Esports tournament, often with million-dollar prizes for the first place winners.
Another game that has had many iterations throughout the years, Quake is one of the most influential first-person shooter games of all time. Other FPS titles made an impact before Quake, like Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM, but Quake set itself apart from the competition with its multiplayer-focused gameplay. By all measures, Quake was a milestone in Esports and video game history in general. During a time when internet connections were becoming more common at home, thousands of players from around the world started to dive into this technical and elaborate shooter. The developers of this game, ID Software, organized one of the first major Esports tournaments, Red Annihilation in 1997. The 16 best players from around the world converged on Atlanta, GA for the event. The victor was Dennis “Thresh” Fong who is considered the first pro gamer and is honored in the Esports Hall of Fame.
Starcraft: Brood War
Around the same time that Quake was breaking ground in Esports, another game was finding its user base. Nowadays, South Korea is well known as the #1 place in the world for competitive gaming, but it all started with Starcraft: Brood War. From 1997-1999 Asia was dealing with a massive financial crisis. Young people without extra income needed somewhere to spend their time and thus, computer gaming cafes took off. Friends gathered around and played games together, most notably being the real-time strategy series Starcraft. This seemingly insignificant trend effectively changed the course of gaming history. What followed were massive gaming tournaments with high-stakes prizes, the beginning of pro gaming culture, and the Esports field in general.
In the modern era, we’ve evolved from slow internet connections and LAN parties. Gaming is pushing technology and as a result, we have received some titles that have led to cultural fanaticism. With young gamers competing as some of the best players in the world, we’ve truly entered a new era of Esports.
Another big factor involved in the changing landscape of competitive gaming is the arrival of streaming platforms. While YouTube gaming channels have been popular for over 15 years, platforms like Twitch poured gasoline on the Esports craze, and helped facilitate the rise of gaming as a career. Now, there are more people interested in competitive gaming than ever before. There are some of the most popular Esports games being played right now.
Among the hundreds of games available in the Esports world, Dota 2 still manages to stand out, even after 7 years on the market. In tournaments around the world, Dota 2 is a popular fixture. The game belongs to the multiplayer online battle arena genre with team-based gameplay. Players compete throughout the year on the Dota Pro Circuit, a series of tournaments and qualifiers that lead up to The International, the game’s annual premier tournament. With a prize pool often topping $30 million dollars, you can see how this game retains such a huge draw in the Esports world. For pro gamers, Dota 2 is one of the most lucrative games to excel at.
By now, everyone in the gaming world has heard of Fortnite. The game is a record-breaking cultural phenomenon that attracted players of all ages and popularized the battle royal style of gameplay. With matches containing 100 players at a time, this was truly a milestone in what video games were capable of. Utilizing a free-to-play mechanic that allowed everyone to join in, Fortnite became a wildly successful and now has over 80 million monthly players. In the Esports scene, Fortnite has been breaking records with its massive prize pools. In 2019, the Fortnite World Cup had a total prize pool of $30 million with a $3 million grand prize. Overall, Fortnite is pushing the boundaries of Esports and video gaming in general, perhaps, soon it will be replaced by another hit title.
In the last few years, esports for mobile games have also evolved side by side. Big player bases especially in the Asian countries for games like PUBG Mobile or, in South America for Free Fire has proved that the market is growing massively for mobile esports. And the stage is already set for Mobile esports!