State of eSports in 2014

Dustin and Alex take a look back at how far eSports has come in 2013, and where we think it's headed in 2014.

It’s been a helluva year for eSports - we’ve seen massive growth across all genres and viewership demographics (especially the almighty 18-24 male age group), which means more advertising dollars for everyone. Cyberathletes are now considered athletes by the US government, so its now even easier for international competition to occur on US soil - meaning better competitions for us, the viewers.

2013 saw some of the largest prize pools we’ve ever seen in eSports. From the League of Legends World Championships, we saw a $2 million dollar prize purse, one that was only trumped by The International 3 in Dota 2 that reached 2,874,381 USD thanks to fan contributions.

Call of Duty had its most successful year to date, with over a dozen major tournaments and a $1 million championship put on by Activision. We saw the game grow from something that had limited support from the publisher into one of the best examples of publisher support in eSports. Unfortunately, this didn’t come without its share of hardships. The scene has grown decidedly more immature and, especially after the failed launch of competitive features for Call of Duty: Ghosts, hostile towards the very people giving them the opportunity to play a videogame for a living.

While Call of Duty might have the mainstream attention for FPS eSports, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive made huge strides in a return to form and prominence. We saw excellent turnout and viewership for tournaments throughout the year, but nothing could match the $250,000 prize pool and 200k viewers for the Steelseries CS:GO Championship at Dreamhack Winter 2013.

That’s not to say team eSports were the only successful events in 2013 - individual games were also successful. StarCraft II saw the first year of its revamped World Championship Series this year, which was a massive success. With the streamlining that Blizzard has done to the Series, it looks to be even more successful this year. That’s not to say we haven’t seen our share of contraction from the scene as a whole, with many major Korean teams shutting their doors this year to make, seemingly to make way for the old guard from Brood War to shift over.

Indeed, the FGC (even though they hate to be called eSports) had a great year as well. Over 10 majors took place this year, each having decent viewership and turnout for the events. EVO alone had over 3000 competitors attend and garnered over 1.7 million stream viewers on Twitch.TV alone. This year also marked a record year for developer involvement with both Namco and Capcom holding their own tournaments for their respective game, and not just simply leaving it up to the community - this is a huge step forward for the FGC, and should not be overlooked.

Looking ahead to 2014, we’re sure to see even more growth across all genres. eSports studios and arenas are cropping up around the world on what seems to be a weekly basis, including the first studios owned by a developer specificallyfor eSports in the United States (Riot’s LCS Studios in Manhattan Beach, CA).

eSports is looking to become even more mainstream, as evidenced by the launch of ESGN in Germany, an organization looking to unify the international scenes across all games, as well as offering an ESPN style service for competitive gaming.

Prize purses are looking to be even more insane next year as the sport grows exponentially. It stands to reason that as the viewership continues to grow, so would the prize pools, but nothing has really been confirmed yet.

Even moving into the new year, Ghosts is still far behind the expectations that Black Ops 2 set for the series. While they seem to be working toward fixing that, it takes time. And that’s the last thing the players want to give them. It’d be crazy to think that things wouldn’t get fixed, but the time it has taken is still a bit worrying.

Expect to see Counter-Strike return on a larger scale. We saw the first $250k tournament last year and it put up huge numbers showing that Counter-Strike isn’t ready to die yet. In fact, it’s ready to return. We already have another $250,000 tournament confirmed in the new year and it wouldn’t be crazy to assume that more will follow.

Regardless of what game you watch, 2014 is going to be a huge year for eSports. There’s more people and companies interested than ever before, and that’s good no matter how you look at it. And as always, we’ll be here to cover it for you, one day at a time.
Dustin Steiner and Alex Rubens contributed to this piece.

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