Esports is the fastest-growing theme in the gaming sector and is predicted by GlobalData market forecasts to generate an astounding $1.8 billion by 2025.
With growth in both audience and revenues, esports has transformed into a major disruptor and competitor to both traditional sports and the broader entertainment industry. This has been bolstered by advancements in 5G and AI, which are continuously evolving to help drive participation and accessibility for users across the globe.
A pilot at the 2022 Birmingham Games
This summer saw esports introduced into the Commonwealth Games for the first time in history. Co-funded by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and the Global Esports Federation (GEF), the non-medaled event invited over 100 athletes to compete in three chosen video games. Although the pilot was branded a success by the CGF, esports will not feature in the 2026 Commonwealth games, which is set to take place in Victoria, Australia.
Rumors suggest this decision may partly be due to the rising use of prescription drugs, particularly Adderall, which has become a prevalent issue in many competitive gaming competitions. Adderall, originally prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), is used by gamers to increase alertness, decrease reaction times, and help with focusing attention. While the unprescribed use of Adderall is banned in professional sports, performance-enhancing drugs are still failing to be regulated in the esports and gaming industry.
Interest in esports Is booming
The esports industry has gone from being a relatively niche activity watched by a small number of spectators to large, organized events with growing opportunities for marketing, sponsorship, and large rewards. Countries in the Asia-Pacific region—such as China, Japan, and South Korea—are dominating the market, having been early to legitimize it as a sport and proactive in developing the infrastructure to foster talent and a fanbase. However, mobile esports will also provide new opportunities for companies in less developed esports markets to strengthen their position, bolstered by increased connectivity globally in the coming years.
The monetization of gameplay will also create new sources of revenue. In-game monetization models in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) will explode, making it easier for professional gamers and esports athletes to earn revenue from their global audiences. An alignment of crypto firms with esports teams and leagues could even result in esports athletes earning more than many athletes in the traditional sports industry.
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Esports – just a generational fad?
The demographic of esports athletes, like gaming, is concentrated around the younger generation. This specific demographic focus means that many fail to take the gaming industry seriously, meaning a backlash against its untraditional nature is gaining traction. Furthermore, the sedentary lifestyle of esports goes against the traditional spirit of the Olympics in promoting physical activity.
However, the Olympics have made strides to attract the younger generation by including a wider variety of sports, including surfing, skateboarding, and breakdancing. Seventeen US colleges now offer athletic scholarships for competitive gamers, a trend expected to expand across more colleges and countries in the future. This will build a new generation of professional gaming athletes over the coming years. Changes at the Paris 2024 Olympics may be too soon, but who knows what LA 2028 may bring.