Esports are getting more and more press in popular media, and the competitions that were once only watched on streaming sites like Twitch are now being featured on mainstream television around the world.
The definition of esports can be complicated, but the essence is that it is a competition that is played on video games. eSports has a surprisingly long history, much like computer gaming itself, and it is going from strength to strength – and the casino world, in Vegas and online with Virgin Games, is getting involved too.
But will casino games be a feature of esport competitions in the future? Well, the answer is that it could well be, and in some ways it already is.
History of esports
In the 1970s, Stamford University students staged a Spacewar! tournament, which was the first official video gaming competition.
With the advent of arcade games, a Space Invaders championship was held in 1980, when more than 10,000 people entered for the chance to win a version of the new game Asteroids.
Walter Day, an arcade manager, wanted to create some sort of record-keeping for arcade games, and invented the Twin Galaxies National Scoreboard, maintaining information on records and producing a universal set of rules in 1982. With the popularity of this behind him, in 1983 he put together the US National Video Team, the first-ever professional gaming team.
Whilst all of this was based around arcade games, there were more developments in computer gaming, and a Star Trek-based multiplayer computer game called Netrek allowed up to 16 players to compete over the internet. While it was only scientists that played it (because computers were rather larger in those days and mostly used in labs), it was a step in the right direction for online gaming capabilities that makes eSports as we know them today possible.
Nintendo soon got in on the action, with the Nintendo World Championships. Players competed in Super Mario Bros, Rad Racer, and Tetris.
In the 1990s, Local Area Networks (LAN) parties connected groups of players on computer games, which started to remove regional restrictions on gaming tournaments, and the first eSports league was founded towards the end of the decade – the Electronic Sports League.
By the time the 21st Century rolled around, eSports was an international phenomenon. Massive tournaments were held in Germany, France, Seoul, and the US, and by 2007 the best eSports player could win a prize pot of over $1 million in the Championship Gaming Series.
By 2010 there were 260 eSports tournaments annually, and some colleges and universities in America have even begun to offer athletic scholarships to talented eSports players since 2013.
The most recent development in the eSports world is that in the 2022 Commonwealth Games, eSports competitions were featured as a pilot for future full medal events.
Top esports Games
- Dota 2 – This multiplayer battle arena game developed by Valve pits teams of five against each other and is one of the most popular games.
- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive – Another game developed by Valve, this is a first-person shooter where players are either terrorists or counter-terrorists.
- Fortnite – This relatively new game, developed by Epic Games, has several different game modes, but it is usually played as a Battle Royale, either single or multiplayer.
- League of Legends – A multiplayer real-time strategy game, where teams of three or five compete to destroy the opponents base.
- PUBG – Another battle royale-style game, played either singly or as a team, where 100 players compete to be the last gamer standing.
Casinos and esports
Brick-and-mortar casinos have been quick off the mark to get involved in the growth of esports, with many locations, especially in Las Vegas, hosting tournaments. They are also into sponsorship of professional eSports teams, getting involved financially, and sharing in the benefits of getting in front of a growing audience.
For both physical and online casinos, esports wagering has offered another revenue stream in the same way as for other sports – popular eSports teams and players are followed by fans, and bets can be placed on the outcome in the same way as they do with football and horse racing.
One of the most popular features of online casinos tends to be slots – and eSports and slots are becoming more and more entwined as game developers create new playing options based on popular esports games and teams, like a slots game featuring characters, images, and icons based on Fortnite.
One of the best-known esports that come from online casinos is poker. Although the original World Series of Poker is a physical game, held in brick-and-mortar casinos around the globe, there is an online version that could be considered an esport – the World Championship of Online Poker. Running since 2002 and established by the online casino PokerStars, it offers great players the opportunity to win huge prize purses.
Could slots become an esport? Well, in some ways, it is already. There are already international tournaments, using various popular titles that are available in different online casinos globally, and it would be a simple move to make these tournaments match the excitement of other eSports. All organizers would need to do would be to start each player with the same pot of coins to play and see who has made the most by the time limit. For the players, while slots are not a skilled game typically, they would have to develop a strategy to maximize profits without using up their bankroll.
As esports grows further, online casinos have an opportunity to find a new revenue stream and increase the popularity of the games they have on offer.