The Rise and Rise of “E-sports”

Starcraft II

Starcraft II

Video games have come a long way in the last 15 years. No longer is it a pastime of the those locked away in their bedrooms. Now there is a whole world of video gamers playing with friends, and play against others.

Electronic sports, “e-sports“, is used as a general term to describe the play of video games competitively. Nowadays, professional video gaming is quickly becoming a legitimate sport. A few years ago, poker took the limelight, blurring the line between professional gaming and non-athletic sports. Now, Major League Gaming and dozens of other leagues have popped up around competitive games like StarCraft and Halo: Reach.

In the nation of South Korea, StarCraft is literally a national sport and is equally as popular (if not more) as sports like basketball or baseball. StarCraft 2, in particular is currently leading a resurgence of e-sports which tournaments organised online on a daily basis. In fact, the major tournaments attract prizes of up to $50,000 for the winner. That’s Ksh 4.75 MILLION.

Opportunity for our youth
Locally, e-sports is nowhere near the level it is at in more developed countries but the good thing is that there does exist a strong local gaming community and there are efforts to make gaming popular in Kenya led by NexGen and, to a lesser degree Kalongo. This is a good thing and such efforts need to be encouraged for three reasons (among others):

  • Competitive gaming can actually easily become a legitimate source of income for at least some of our country’s unemployed youth. if people are winning Kshs 4.75 million just for playing a game, why can’t Kenyans get in on some of that?
  • People who are busy get up to less mischief. Again, this helps tackle our country’s problem of having a large number of unemployed, essentially idle, young people.
  • It is always good to see Kenyans out there conquering the world and making our country proud!

A couple of years ago, some Kenyan gamers qualified for the WCG (which is like the world cup of competitive gaming). The tournament was to be held in China. Unfortunately, our gamers did not have the funds to travel to China so they approached the government of Kenya through the ministry of sports. Sadly, they were not welcome – “esports” was not recognised as a legitimate sports. This needs to change, fast, lest the great and proud nation of Kenya be left behind.

Opportunity for businesses
Over the last year or so, the number of Kenyan businesses seeking to market themselves online has grown in leaps and bounds. It seems any business that is “serious” needs to be on Facebook or Twitter and it is not uncommon for the big boys to spend lavishly on Google Adwords.

To all the “serious” businesses out there: e-sports represents a massive opportunity to market yourselves online!!

As stated above, e-sports is currently becoming very popular. Very large professional tournaments are beign set up and millions of people are already avid fans of various players and teams. At the very roots of the current resurgence in esports is the Internet. Unlike in the past, e-sports events can now be transmitted “live” to millions worlwide and sites like Youtube make it possible for anyone to be a fan. In fact, popular matches on Youtube are regularly watched by hundreds of thousands of people (see this guy with over 500,000 followers).

Imagine this: what if a nice and lovely Kenyan company sponsored a Kenyan player or Kenyan gaming event on condition that it be publicized massively online? As long as the said Kenyan company chose to work with the right people, this could be a very cost-effective way to reach hundreds of thousands of people online. The best thing is that this would probably be very affordable at the moment due to the idea being so new.

In my mind, businesses in the tourism industry especially need to embrace this unique opportunity as soon as possible. What cheaper way would a tourism firm have of reaching 100,000 potential tourists?

E-sports is here, and it is serious business!

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