E-Sports on ESPN?

Image via www.eslgaming.com
Image via www.eslgaming.com

Is the world ready?

By Davie Wong, Sports Editor

I was browsing ESPN the other day in search of the latest useless drama in the world of sports, and to my surprise, the website had an “E-sports” section. I fondly recalled a certain quote from the ESPN president, John Skipper, not more than two years ago from the Code/Media Series: New York conference. “[E-sport] is not a sport—it’s a competition… I’m interested in doing real sports.”

Pretty strong words if I’m not mistaken. Yet there it was in full 1280p glory. A page of ESPN dedicated purely to the reporting and promotion of E-sports. So what changed? Well I can tell you it probably wasn’t that stubborn president. Maybe it was the fact that it’s now a multi-hundred million dollar industry. Perhaps it was the pressure from an ever-growing audience that caused the sports giant to finally cave. Either way, it has happened, and the reaction has been promising.

Sometimes, money is the answer. And it turns out the bigwigs at ESPN know how to spend their money well. To spark their E-sports division, ESPN hired several big name writers and journalists within the E-sports community, and it paid off. ESPN’s E-sport social media account amassed a large number of followers not too long after launching, and activity site spiked.

Surprisingly enough, much of the resistance that E-sports had been previously met with was not present. This could do to a number of factors. Recently, certain prominent figures in sport have made significant investments into the world of E-sports. NBA standout Rick Fox stepped into the E-sport scene in a big way, by buying his way into the competition. MLB legends Alex Rodriguez and Jimmy Rollins, along with NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, just recently invested in an E-sport team owned by Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov. Miller and Mastrov are also minority partners of the Sacramento Kings.

All over the world of sports, E-sport is beginning to emerge as a viable investment for athletes. By associating big names with these budding organizations, it makes the transition for traditional sport to E-sport much easier. Hearing that a team that is co-owned by so many big names, popping up on your nightly sports recap makes it a lot easier to relate to than seeing “some kids playing video games.”

Yahoo has also followed in the footsteps of ESPN, launching their own E-sports division shortly after ESPN launched theirs. While the support for Yahoo’s division has been lacklustre compared to ESPN’s, the numbers are still there.

The money is there. The support is there. The numbers have always been there. The world is finally ready for the E-sports industry.