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When playing becomes a profession

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When playing becomes a profession

More than 12,700 players around the world are professionally engaged in competing in video games, according to the first electronic sport observatory.

The fans roar as they would in any other sporting event, however the ‘heroes’ they acclaim are neither Ronaldo nor Nadal nor Gasol. The media are not yet covered and yet they are true idols in the peculiar universe through which they move. And everything indicates that this has only just begun. In 2017, the so-called MMOs, massively multiplayer online games, which are the most representative of electronic sports, are expected to represent 31% of the total revenue of the videogame market. This is what ‘e-Sports Report’, the first observatory of electronic sport, which Arena Media has developed, reflects.

The study compiles “a lot of information” that was dispersed in the network and complements it with a series of interviews to the different agents of the sector, to draw a fixed picture of the state of this growing area belonging to the cultural industry that moves the most money in all the world. It should be remembered that only in Spain, which at the level of billing is in ninth position in the world ranking, there are more than 23.9 million players and six million of them already do it on all possible screens: computers, consoles, tablets , mobiles … The potential to take a step towards e-Sports is there.

In a context like the current one, it is worth wondering how the e-Sports have arrived at their current situation. The study gives an answer: the presence of PC in 93.2% of homes, the desire for competition and the fact that many distributors have launched to business models such as Free to Play Рthe game is free and you only pay for moving faster or for aesthetic improvements Рthey allow entry barriers to be minimal. Since then, the phenomenon has only grown. From the competitions in the cybercaf̩s one went to the online competitions and later, thanks in part to a growing community of fans and to the professionalized tournaments, to the massive events

The observatory defines electronic sport as the “encounter between the psychological physicality of chess and the technological mediation of motor sports”. The truth is that professional players, there are 12,737 worldwide, must devote between eight and ten hours seven days a week to perfect their game. Real-time strategy titles such as ‘Starcraft II’, a title in which the player must gather resources, which then reinvest in their units to launch them against the enemy, require about 300 actions per minute.

Therefore it is logical that the professional career of an electronic athlete is between four and six years on average. In this sense, the topic of the discipline of Asians, with 652 professionals in China and 552 in South Korea, plays in their favor, They are leaders in this sector. The United States (2,506 professionals), Germany and Sweden (513 professionals) are other countries in which e-Sports are relevant and already at another level are countries such as Spain (274 professionals), France and Italy.

Despite the place that Spain occupies in that sense, the trend is very positive, because in proportion the number of active players in MMOs in Spain is the highest in the world and the growth rate between 2011 and 2014 is 8%.

The titles

The report also reveals what elements build this structure and begins with video games. They are the MOBA -‘League of Legends ‘and’ DOTA 2′- and the MMORPG -‘World of Warcraft ‘or’ Eve Online’- the most representative but there is also room for other genres such as first-person action games such as sagas ‘Counter Strike’ or ‘Call of Duty’, fighting games like the saga ‘Street Fighter’ and, even, sports like ‘FIFA’. In this sense, growth has not only been determined by the community. Studies like Blizzard or Valve have also realized the opportunity and instead of continuing to develop waterproof games, they have turned titles into services that keep them alive and that adapt to the needs of the community.

The report indicates that the positive trend began to be noticed in 2013 and 2014. Since then, the growth of players and tournaments, as well as the amount of prizes in the tournaments, which exceeded 65 million dollars in 2015, has not more than growing. And they point to a problem: just as in the United States the leagues and the tournaments have already reached the universities, in Spain it is difficult to find new players. The ecosystem also includes clubs and players who were born with an amateur spirit but who have become professional companies with managers, trainers, dieticians, psychologists, and who, in order to finance themselves, look for sponsorships, merchandansing their own, prizes … other sports that are forming their own e-Sports team, as Valencia CF has recently done.

The hearings

But, undoubtedly one of the most striking aspects of e-Sports, is the audiences that hoard. Platforms such as Twitch.tv, which in 2012 was acquired by Amazon, retransmit by streaming those competitions. The figures are overwhelming: in 2015, 2.09 million users saw the end of the ESL One Cologne at the same time and up to 27 million unique users were connected.

Not only that, the service has managed to combine something that seemed impossible on a single platform: video content and comments in real time. It has 100 million monthly users that consume an average of 422 minutes of video per month per user. 550,000 users are frequent visitors. And there is another important point, according to the study, 40% of these viewers are not video game players. So things, the opportunities to get grow not only the electronic sport but reach that viewer seem clear.

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