There is so much more to eSports than gamers playing on consoles, computers, and mobile devices deep within the confines of their bedrooms. The numbers are irrefutable – it fills huge stadiums, some of them Olympic, in some of the world’s largest cities IRL.
One of the most recent events to demonstrate clearly the crowd-pulling power of eSports was the League of Legends World Championships finals, held at the National Stadium in Beijing, China, at the end of 2017. While some involved bemoaned ticket sales not having reached their full potential, the finals did attract 60 million unique remote viewers.
The National Stadium was first built for the 2008 Olympics, and has a capacity of 80 000. The figures from stadiums in other parts of the world are no less impressive.
eSports Events Swell
The biggest eSports events over the last 4 years demonstrate the industry’s unprecedented growth. While most of the big-name events are held in sports stadiums, the past few years have seen dedicated eSports arenas open in the USA and in Asia. Evidently, the momentum behind eSports is not slowing down.
The eSport numbers got bigger and better in 2014. The ESL Intel Extreme Masters was held at the SAP Center in San Jose, a stadium also known as the Shark Tank. The 2-day event attracted 12500 to the venue, and 4 million viewers online.
In the same year, South Korean capital Seoul hosted the League of Legends World Final at the Sangam Stadium. The stadium would be familiar to football fans as one of the venues of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. The 45000-steater stadium was filled with spectators, while 27 million logged on to online broadcasts of the event.
The city, and indeed the country, is no stranger to eSports. KeSPA, South Korea’s national eSports governing body, is based in Seoul, which is also the location of the first stadium dedicated solely to eSports.
2015 brought even higher numbers of spectators and viewers. Held in Frankfurt, Germany, ESL One DOTA2 saw approximately 52000 attend events at the Commerzbank-Arena. Online viewer numbers soared to more than 1 million.
2016 was the year in which eSports began to come into its own, at least as far as attracting spectators and viewers is concerned. Held at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles USA, a stadium best known for being the home ground of the LA Lakers, it saw the 12 000 tickets available sell out in less than an hour. In addition to the thousands of spectators, it attracted an online viewership of approximately 32 million.
Los Angeles has also hosted Call of Duty championships, the Halo World Championships, and important computer-based eSports events.
The 2017 Intel Extreme Masters were held at the Spodek Arena in Katowice, Poland. Approximately 173 000 spectators and fans attended the event, and 46 million followed proceedings online.
The city is a regular host of eSports events. Among those it has hosted are League of Legends, DOTA2, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Dedicated eSports Stadiums
For the time being, Asia is home to the highest number of eSports stadiums and venues. Among them are the Orange eSports Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, the Yongsan eSports Stadium in Seoul, and the E-Blue eSports Stadium in Malaysia. China, on the other hand, is looking outward, and wants to invest in stadiums in other countries.
Neonopolis, Las Vegas is home to the Millennial eSports Arena, which opened in 2017. The arena has since hosted a Halo World Championship qualifier, among other events. Now, there’s a new arena opening on the Strip, and this could well change the face of eSports in Sin City. The arena is the first to make its way to this famous part of Nevada, and it’s a clear indication of just how popular eSports are, and in the future, it’s sure to host some of the worlds biggest events.
Los Angeles is also home to a dedicated eSports arena, and gaming company Blizzard has the Blizzard Arena, where it regularly hosts events.
Looking at eSports’ impressive stadium figures, it may be well on its way to eclipsing even the most popular of all mainstream sports. Will the day come when even Olympic stadiums are too small? Time will tell.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.