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The democratisation of E-Sports

First of all, what is e-sport?

It refers to the practice of a video game, on the Internet or LAN-party, alone or in teams, on a computer, a tablet or a console.

The dream became a reality during the 1980s, while the ADSL was developing, and it marked the outbreak of high-speed connection into homes. At the end of the 1990s, the first official competitions were born, with games as popular as Starcraft I, Quake, or the legendary Counter-Strike.

In France, it is the time of the first tournaments “In Real Life”. The “LAN” (i.e. Local Area Network, which rallies players on a local network) attracts players from all over the country. Armed with their computers, they gather in huge halls and gyms for a few crazy days and nights without sleep.

Live e-Sports also rose, some are already thinking about it, few really believe in. Yet, thousands of kilometers away, in South Korea, the release of Starcraft Brood War (1998), is a national event. Supported by the Ministry of Sports, « the KeSPA » federation was born, and with it the first professional players, who receive salaries and cash prizes and arouse strong popular craze.

As a real media phenomenon, professional players are elevated to stars like football players in Europe. Some of them have annual salaries up to a million dollars. The democratization of e-Sports is also promoted in Korean universities, where courses on gaming strategy are offered. France was able to see the potential of creating e-Sports in the 2003 Electronic Sports World Cup, which became one of the most important events in the international arena.

The biggest turning point of e-Sports coincides with the appearance of the League of Legends game in 2009. Its distribution is free, so the game massively attracts players from around the world, and in 2013 it became the most played game worldwide. LOL competitions have become major events, watched by over 36 million viewers of all ages, just as traditional sporting events.

Will e-Sports be the new marketing eldorado to target 14 to 35 years old? Like traditional sports events, sponsors invest in e-Sports tournaments but also in teams to get visibility and trust of potential consumers. Within it, major sponsors in the field of IT, such as Razer and Steelseries, invest heavily in teams and events, thus increasing their global reach.

These tournaments and competitions of all kinds have been widely spread by the online video and streaming platforms like Youtube. Twitch, on another hand, transmits various live or recorded competitions. The best players have more than half a million subscribers, and accumulate between 600k and 7 million in-games views. This is a huge visibility for sponsors, which, over the year, is able provide a standard communication.

To conclude, e-Sports has become a mainstream entertainment, attracting crowds on the web. Only the development of tournaments and professional statutes are still lagging behind in France, limiting opportunities for professional players, streamers, managers and organizers. Recently launched in agreement with the government, a federation united the ten major French e-Sport companies.

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