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  5. An Introduction to Esports Tournaments

By Milica Kasapovic, Dijana Radunovic and Jovana Bursac - from Catena Media’s Global Division / AskGamblers team

Once upon a time, the ‘esports tournament’ was a niche and somewhat stigmatised concept, lived out by aspiring competitors in the backrooms of gaming stores. While the history of videogame-based tournaments stretches back several decades, it is only in the last ten years that esports tournaments have genuinely become something remarkable.
From multi-million dollar prize pools to viewership records that number in the millions, the world’s greatest esports tournaments now have the power to generate massive revenue across many verticals. Since 2010, the esports industry has been growing at an incredible rate, and today, the biggest tournaments rival some of the oldest and most popular traditional sporting events.
Read on to learn more about why esports tournaments are the next big thing for our ever-developing, increasingly digital world.

What Is An Esports Tournament?

According to every definition, an esports tournament is a competition played out on any video game platform. This has been true since 1972 when Stanford University hosted the world’s first esports tournament. At this event, twenty-four players descended upon the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory to compete against one another in Spacewar, a classic arcade title. 

Since then, technology has advanced at an intense pace, and the gaming industry has blossomed, becoming something incredible. From graphics and visual effects that leave us gobsmacked, to the ability to connect and play with other gamers anywhere in the world, gaming as an industry truly is a titan. 

As the gaming industry has grown, so too has the esports industry - and there’s certainly a correlation there. Ultimately, if a video game boasts a multiplayer, competitive aspect, it’ll become an esports title, whether that’s at the lowest, most minor level, or at the level that accommodates multi-million dollar esports tournaments.

Typically, a top-tier esports tournament can be closely compared to a traditional sporting event. Two teams will take to a central stage to represent their organisation. They’ll compete with one another in their chosen game whilst being spectated by a crowd of thousands and an audience online that can number in the millions. 

Like traditional sports such as soccer and basketball, esports boasts a vibrant ecosystem, powered by supporters, merchandising, advertising, sponsorships, and media rights. There’s a dynamic and ever-evolving annual schedule that sees tens of thousands of esports tournaments take place every year. 

Expanding On The Value

In 2021, a single esports tournament peaked at 5.4 million concurrent viewers. At the tail end of the same year, another esports tournament boasted a $40 million prize pool. According to Statista, the overall esports audience is expected to grow at an exponential rate in the coming years, rising to around 640 million viewers by 2025.

There is no doubt that the esports industry is hugely valuable and growing at an incredible pace, with more prolific esports tournaments cropping up every year. Currently, the biggest value in the industry is found in sponsorship deals, but there are more avenues of revenue opening up all the time. Some of the most profitable areas in the industry include:

  • Esports betting
  • Brand merchandising
  • Broadcast and media rights
  • Content creation

If we look back some twenty or thirty years, we see an industry just beginning to emerge. There are competitions taking place, but few people are aware of them, and even fewer compete in them. For the most part, gaming - and by association, esports - is only just starting to take shape, and almost nobody can predict the potential that these industries hold within them.

If we fast-forward to today, we’re looking at an industry that is expected to be worth almost $2 billion by 2025. We’re able to identify some of the fastest-growing betting markets and opportunities for brands that have nothing to do with gaming. As time goes on, some of the world’s most recognisable entities are stepping into the esports space, backing tournaments and organisations. There’s a wealth of growth taking place, and it’s being driven by the overwhelming popularity of today’s esports tournaments.

Breaking Down The Esports Tournaments

While there are dozens, if not hundreds, of esports titles in the industry, there are a few core video games that make up the backbone of the esports tournament structure. By market share, these are the top esports games in the world today:

  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (first-person shooter, team-based game)
  • Dota 2 (multiplayer online battle arena)
  • League of Legends (multiplayer online battle arena)
  • StarCraft II (real-time strategy)
  • Fortnite (battle royale)
  • Call of Duty (first-person shooter, team-based game)
  • Overwatch (first-person hero shooter)
  • Rainbow Six Siege (first-person shooter, team-based game)

Most of these titles have an organisational structure in place, boasting regulated leagues, a world championship event, and several major tournaments that take place throughout the year. For the most part, these titles have huge legacies associated with them, and some of them have a history that stretches back to the foundations of the modern esports industry. 

As we’ve already highlighted, any video game that boasts a multiplayer capability can technically be an esports title. Therefore, it stands to reason that any new videogame emerging into the industry with such a feature has a chance of becoming the next big esports event - provided it is developed and managed accordingly.

Looking To The Future

We’re seeing an exponential rise in the popularity of many of the world’s best esports tournaments. As time goes on, both in-person events and online tournaments are receiving higher levels of viewership and interaction, and sponsorship deals are becoming much more valuable.

As technology becomes increasingly impressive and we become more digital as a global community, the esports industry will continue to expand and cross new horizons. For the biggest esports titles out there today, the future is mostly unwritten, and competitors and organisers alike are only bound by their imagination. With a digital landscape backed by the endless creativity of the gaming industry, anything is possible. 

And Now, Catena Media

At Catena Media, we’ve assembled a team of experienced and enthusiastic writers, content and product specialists to cover esports tournaments from many different angles. From early previews and predictions to in-depth analyses, our team provides esports fans with valuable, rich information in an accessible and digestible format. 

Our esports content is published across a string of popular outlets, remaining impartial, unbiased, and accurate. At the core of our esports team is a veritable wealth of knowledge, bolstered by years of collective experience in the esports industry. 

We’re hiring unique, genuine, and talented writers to create content based on the games that they personally know and love. At all times, you can rest assured that the articles, guides, previews, and predictions they produce are written from the heart. 


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An Introduction to Esports Tournaments