During the first weekend of October, fans and fellow players of popular multiplayer games by Valve, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (known and more often referred to as CS:GO), funneled into the massive Barclays Centre in Brooklyn New York, an arena normally occupied by the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets or the NHL’s New York Islanders. The event taking place was the ESL (previously Electronic Sports League) One New York Finals, featuring the top eight CS:GO teams from across the globe competing for a $250,000 prize pool.
Electronic sports, or Esports, is a rapidly growing industry. Easily comparable to that of a player in a major baseball or hockey league, today’s highly competitive professional gamers are securing sponsorship deals and are asked to pit themselves against other teams in LANs (tournaments where players share a stable local network and can be inspected by event organizers for cheating) worldwide. Not only have Esports teams rapidly become household names, but these teams and professional organizations gain massive fanbases. It’s now become normal to see fans of these teams sporting wearable merchandise on a regular basis, or from a business standpoint, sales of certain electronic items such as monitors or peripherals (keyboards, mouses, etc.) become quickly sold out once consumers have seen them used at tournaments or on online streams by their favourite players.
North American teams, and specifically, Canadian-based Esports teams are on the rise. With organizations based out of the USA such as Cloud 9 (which features Shroud, an Ontario-born and raised player, on their CS:GO team) and Team Liquid steadily maintaining a strong presence at tournaments worldwide, North America can definitely be considered a force to be reckoned with in competitive gaming. Rob ‘Damien’ Melendez, the CEO of Insomnia Esports, a Canadian-based organization quickly on the rise in competitive gaming, says that “larger LANs and qualifiers are not only a great place to show team skills, but also serve as an opportunity for organizations [both up-and-coming and already well established] to network and form relationships.” Founded in November of 2015, the organization has already made a name for themselves in the industry in just under a year. “There are a lot of barriers,” said Melendez, “the financial aspect of competing can be a substantial barrier to players and teams.” Most recently, Insomnia’s CS:GO team has been quite busy, competing in tournaments such as Dreamhack Montreal and preparing for the second qualifier competition for Northern Arena (also located in Montreal), a championship LAN with a $100,000 CS:GO prize pool.
A large part of this industry’s growth can most likely be attributed to online streaming services, and more specifically, Twitch. Twitch, a live-streaming platform mainly focused on video game play, was initially started as a spin-off of Justin.tv and now, while still owned by Twitch Interactive Inc., has become a subsidiary of Amazon as of 2014. Twitch serves the gaming community and more specifically, the Esports community as a way for players to show their skills and build a community while making a name and a brand for themselves online. Numerous Twitch gamers also use live streams to collect donations to help further their career in Esports or the general gaming industry, or at least help subsidize the cost of getting back and forth to competitions or upgrading their rigs (platform played on, PCs are usually a favourite among players.)
If there’s one thing that is certain, it’s the fact that the Esports industry is going to continue to see rapid growth and interest.
The Brock Press will feature coverage of Northern Arena Montreal, happening November 11-13, 2016 at the Bell Centre. For more information, please visit northernarena.ca; for more information on Insomnia Esports, please visit their Twitter at @insomnia_ca.