[Liveblog] eSports is mainstream entertainment – says Michael Bister

There's a sport - actually, many sports - that attract millions of viewers online and which you have probably never watch: eSports are here to stay.

Michael Bister, ESL

Warning: Liveblogging. Prone to error, inaccuracy and howling crimes against grammar. This post will be improved over the first 48 hours after publication.

What are eSports? Well, you’ve played games. You want to win. What if you can win thousands – or millions – through playing? Then you’d practice until you got very good. And others would want to watch them playing it so well.

The ESL was founded 15 years ago. Before ESL, people played at LAN Parties – they brought their own PCs and connected them together to play tournaments. Fun, but hard and no great prizes. ESL created a platform to allow sports to happen online. Their first event in 2002 – 30 people came to watch.

They’ve been developing from there. Tools for matching players. Tools for competitions. Prize money started growing. In 2006, they went global. Social media propelled the best players to star status, as the fans interacted with the players.

The rise of Twitch – a service for streaming you games – and free to play games like League of Legends, World of Tanks and DOTA2. They’re easy to learn and hard to master. Perfect. League of Legends has 80m players.

ESL is the biggest company on Twitch right now. They get 1.2m viewers on their biggest events. 4,000 people were on site for €40 a head, or €200 for a VIP ticket. eSports events fill stadiums now.

And they’re just growing. The number of events is growing – and a whole generation growing up with eSports. They’re going to be the players – and the viewers – of the future.