The announcement of an ESPN eSports section takes competitive gaming closer to mainstream acceptance
ESPN eSports is a new vertical by ESPN that was just launched yesterday. The move highlights the network’s recognition of the growing interest in competitive gaming. As of now, the covered games are limited to League of Legends, Dota 2, and Hearthstone. There’s no doubt though that the number of games will increase once more people get wind of their coverage.
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) January 14, 2016
The Impact of ESPN eSports
Although ESPN eSports is hardly the first to cover the competitive gaming scene, it shows the most promise because of the ESPN brand. There’s no doubt that ESPN as a company recognizes the growth in viewership of games like Dota 2 and LoL. By covering eSports events, ESPN can help introduce competitive gaming to more mainstream viewers.
Mainstream Investors and Investments
That’s not to say people in the mainstream haven’t been introduced to eSports yet. There are actually quite a lot of individuals and companies who’ve invested in competitive gaming prior to the ESPN eSports launch. Former NBA player Rick Fox is one good example.
The former LA Laker has already invested in his own eSports franchise which he aptly named Echo Fox. Formerly Gravity Gaming, Fox purchased the League of Legends team just last December 18th. Fox admitted that he had been following the competitive gaming scene for some time. He got introduced to the then-niche world of eSports thanks to the time he spent playing games with Kyle, his now 21-year old son. Now, he’s already recruiting players from all over the world to be a part of his LCS team.
It’s not just Rick Fox though. As we mentioned in a prior article, Mark Cuban also has expressed interest in eSports. ESPN’s coverage validates what a lot of people are starting to realize: there is money to be made in eSports.
A Win For ESPN and eSports
In a way, ESPN’s coverage is a big win for both eSports and the network. Their coverage on events and news centered around competitive games will help broaden their audience. The infusion of younger viewers and readers to ESPN’s eSports content will undoubtedly help the network to get more advertising revenue.
— Twitch (@Twitch) January 15, 2016
In 2014 alone, the League of Legends World Championships was able to attract an estimated 27 million viewers. That’s more viewers than those who tuned in for the NBA Finals between the Spurs and Heat. What’s even crazier is that the LoL World Championships wasn’t even broadcast on major TV networks.
Dissenters and Detractors
Obviously not everyone is going to be happy about ESPN’s eSports coverage. Case in point would be what happened during a recent Inside the NBA episode.
— ELEAGUE (@EL) January 8, 2016
Although it’s not shown on the clip, Inside the NBA anchors Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, and Kenny Smith were apparently indifferent about the ELeague eSports commentary. Of course, the ELeague anchors didn’t take kindly to this and things got a little chippy. Though things were pretty civil, it does highlight an issue most people have with eSports.
A lot of people still believe that eSports are not sports. This goes back to the common train of thought that sports require athleticism. Even with ESPN’s coverage, it will still take a while for competitive gaming to be included in discussions as legitimate sports. What’s important now though is that people are finally taking note of eSports thanks to ESPN.
What are your thoughts regarding ESPN’s eSports vertical? Do you think this will help eSports to get the mainstream attention that it’s been trying so hard to get? Remember to share your thoughts on ESPN eSports down on the comments section!