Deciphering eSport

Competitive gaming has been growing and evolving over the years since the first esports tournament happened back in October of 1972 at Stamford University. The game was Spacewar. The prize pool wasn’t much. A year’s supply of Rolling Stone magazine. This set the stage for more tournaments to take place and interest in this new phenomenon began to grow. More tournaments started taking place with more lucrative prize pools being lined up for the winners. The interest wasn’t just with the gamers.

Corporations started paying attention. It was a way to reach a youthful market in an environment that matters to them. The monies started flowing in. Large cash prizes were pumped into the tournaments to get as many gamers playing and as many spectators watching, either physically or through stream. And the prize pools kept on growing. In 2017, the largest prize pool to be given for a single tournament was at The International, a staggering $24.6 million. This was just a small percentage compared to the overall $110.6 million awarded that year. The earnings have been pretty good over the year and we don’t expect they will be slowing down anytime soon. Of course, this doesn’t even include revenues that are earned from corporate endorsements, team sponsorships and advertising revenues, but that’s a story for another blog.

This paints a really wonderful picture and presents a solid business case for eSports globally. The narrative, however, isn’t the same across the board. There have been inequalities and inconsistencies in growth of eSports from continent to continent. Africa is one good example of how long this growth and interest has taken to be established. Narrow it down to Kenya and the earliest competitive video game events one can remember is the PlayStation Challenge that was hosted by HomeBoyz.

Video game parlor start to open across the urban areas and individually ran micro-tournaments take place in the parlors with an entry fee of about $1 per gamer with a winner-take-all prize. Fast forward about a decade later and you will begin to see the seeds of major esports tournaments being planted. Just between 2016 and 2018 we have seen a number of esports tournaments from organizers such as the Nairobi Comic Convention (NAICCON), Vivid Gold, EAGC and Tekken 254. However, it wasn’t until 2017 when PSG stepped onto the scene that the eSports game changed (pun intended). With a world class set up, engaging productions and never seen before prize pools of $ 10,000, it was clear that eSports in Kenya would not be the same going forward.

There has been a lot of ground covered in establishing the eSports eco system in Kenya and there are many players who are credited with this success. However, there is still much to be done through collaborative efforts. The ecosystem is still missing a few players. There are eSports teams to be formed, streaming services to be developed, corporate partners to be engaged and government bodies needed t formulate policies and support growth. The challenge is out there.

Let’s get to work.