(CNN) – E-sports is played and watched all over the world and its growth has been accelerated mainly by the development of the online streaming platform twitch, but as it becomes more popular, television is getting interested.
Turner has just become the latest broadcaster to enter the fray, going live with its e-league televised counter strike tournament, which the player recognize is an important step towards the big time.
Luca Graham told CNN, “I think e-sports has the potential to be a gigantic thing. Where you can go Sunday mornings, you get to watch football. And Thursdays and Saturdays college football, and then maybe Wednesday night, its counter strike on TV. That’s what I want it to be legitimized because realistically it’s more accessible for everyone.”
Craig Barry, Chief Content Officer Turner Sports, said, “One of our main objectives to make sure we’re partially helping people understand and learn the game as we go along. I mean, if you go in here pounding your chest, and acting like hey, we’re going to do it our way, and you’re going to fail. So I think it’s a different kind of audience and I think there’s plenty of room for both kind of platforms and properties.”
Right now, Turner, which includes CNN in its corporate stable, is broadcasting just one game, but there are many titles to choose from and the landscape is constantly evolving. Later this year in Rio, e-sports will even start to mirror the Olympics, with brazil, Britain, Canada and the us all committing to the inaugural e-games tournament. Other countries are welcome to join.
Many of us are still getting used to the notion of e-sports as a serious form of competitive entertainment, but don’t get too used to it. Experts within the industry say that boundless technological innovation could yet change e-sports beyond all recognition.
Sam Matthews, a fanatic, explained, “Eventually, who knows? You know, maybe virtual reality and formula one merge and you can actually race against the real formula one drivers with virtual reality and augmented reality, you could have very physical games. Imagine an augmented version of the hunger games, where people aren’t actually dying, but there are physical athletes competing in a virtual reality environment.”
Shaun ‘Apollo’ Clark, Starcraft II Commentator, said, “The next 10 years in e-sports, I would say that’s the next 100 years in real sports, because of how fast it grows, it’s very difficult to keep track. 10 years ago I was playing in front of 5 people in an audience as a pro player. 10 years from now I think it’s going to be absolutely massive.”
The explosive growth of e-sports is a reminder to so-called traditional sports that nothing is sacred. And if they’re not careful, e-sports could soon be eating their lunch.
Matthews continued with, “There’s a very educated, computer-literate audience, who actually maybe felt alienated by previous sports, so actually we’re bringing a new type of people. Baseball, as an example, has got an aging demographic and it’s something that without innovation, without ways that they can actually appeal to this audience, they’re going to actually suffer in the long-term.”
That’s why established sports clubs, particularly in Europe, have already began aligning with e-sports. Experts think it won’t be long before the most established brand names in world sport will also be competing digitally.
Carlos Rodriguez, team owner of G2 Sports, said, “We are declining offers today, you know, from NBA former players, from Hollywood whatever actor, you know, that have too much money and they just ‘well, let’s spend it, you know, make it rain!’ and eventually those teams, or those clubs, will be called Real Madrid, Barcelona, Los Angeles Lakers. Eventually, it will happen.”
E-sports teams are already being treated like franchises with multi-million dollar valuations. Meanwhile, the players of today have a brighter future than many could have imagined when they started playing in their bedrooms as kids. Better organization means players can expect more protection and better compensation.
Matthews went onto say, “I think that it’s going to equal, if not surpass, 90% of world sports in terms of viewership numbers, in terms of participants and potentially in terms of value.”
Alexander Remy, brand director of Ubisoft, explained, “I wouldn’t say it’s the future of gaming, I would say e-sports is definitely and potentially the future of entertainment, to be honest.”
As the New York Yankees star Yogi Berra once said, the future isn’t what it used to be. This is a future for sport that very few thought it would be.