What is cybersport?
7 July 2022 16:00

What is cybersport?

NUR-SULTAN. KAZINFORM - Many have heard of cybersport which has become increasingly popular in the past years. The question remains - is it a sport of the future or just entertainment? More about what cybersport represents is in the latest article of Kazinform.

In recent years, cybersport has been rising in its popularity, but many people still wonder what is cybersport? In short, cybersport is a competition in computer games that has turned into a multibillion-dollar sport. Similar to traditional sport, cybersports can be of two types - team where there are two or more teams competing, and individual where each player plays for himself or herself.

There are currently various esports genres such as first-person shooters, multiplayer online battle arena games such as League of Legends and Dota 2, fighting games such as Mortal Kombat and sports games.

According to the 2022 report published by Newzoo, the world's source for games and esports analytics and market research, in 2022, the global esports audience will grow 8.7 percent year on year to reach 532 million. Esports enthusiasts—those who watch esports content more than once a month—will account for just over 261 million. The number of esports enthusiasts will grow to 318 million in 2025. Newzoo expects the total audience to surpass 640 million in 2025.

Esports will generate nearly $1.38 billion in revenues globally by the end of 2022, with China accounting for nearly a third of worldwide esports revenues.

Similar to other sports, cybersports require a lot of training. Contrary to what many think of cybersports as teenagers playing games, these competitors are well-trained professionals who have sponsors, coaches, teams, and tight schedules coupled with cutting-edge strategies. Cyber players work just as hard as ordinary athletes as they are on their computers 8-12 hours a day or even more.

From a financial point of view, cybersport is a very profitable sport with prize money only yielding to soccer and poker.

The earnings of a cyber athlete depend on many factors and include more than just prize money. Streaming, sponsorship contracts, participation in advertising, and salary from an organization are also how cybersports people earn money.

Brief history

One might think that esports has been around for a few years, but it is not the case. The world’s first international esports tournament took place in October 1972 when the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Stanford University hosted the Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics tournament. Twenty-four players competed in a space combat game and the winner received a year's subscription to Rolling Stones magazine.

In 1972, the development of Magnavox Odyssey, the first video game home console with a connection to TV, made digital gaming accessible to a larger group of people.

In 1989, Netrek, the first internet team game, was released. It pits two teams of up to 16 players each against each other for control of the galaxy in the Star Trek universe.

As of 2022, it remains the oldest internet game still actively played.

In the 1990s, the emergence of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat competitions and tournaments as well as GoldenEye and other first-person shooters later that decade was a significant milestone paving the way for the Starcraft, Warcraft, Overwatch, Call of Duty and Halo series.

The 2000s saw the first esports tournaments such as the World Cyber Games first time held in 2001 in Seoul, Korea, with a prize pool of $300,000, and the Electronic Sports World Cup held in 2003 in Poitiers, France.

In 2011, Valve, a Washington-based company that developed some of the world’s most popular video games such Half-Life, Portal, Counterstrike, and Left 4 Dead, organized its first international cybersports tournament.

It was a double-elimination offline tournament organized by Valve and took place during the five-day trade show GamesCom in Cologne in 2011 that also witnessed the presentation of Dota 2 to the worldwide audience and offered a staggering $1.6 million prize pool to 16 invited Dota teams from around the world.

In 2021, the cumulative prize tournament pool exceeded US$40 million with Dota2 breaking a record for the largest prize money in esports making US$47.3 million.

Nowadays, millions of women and men around the world consider computer games, not just a hobby, but a full-fledged sport that has become their life's work. If previously esports was available to small groups who had the necessary technical facilities, the rapid development of technologies, including better internet infrastructure, and affordable smartphone and mobile internet data plans, allowed esports to reach the masses.

While esports are gaining popularity in many countries, China is deemed the world’s largest esports commercial market cementing itself as one of the leaders in esports game development, publishing, and tournament organization. The country recognized esports as a sport back in 2003, one of the first countries to do so. Overall, Asia-Pacific is the world’s biggest region by games revenues, with $88.2 billion in 2021 alone.

Impact of COVID-19 on esports development

The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown had a positive impact on the development of esports globally. Lockdowns and social distancing rules made people to engage with one another through digital as well as virtual platforms.

«While gaming’s long-term trajectory remains overwhelmingly positive, 2020’s impressive growth rates simply cannot be sustained for another year. The lockdowns in the first half of 2020 impacted almost everyone’s way of living and working, and gaming studios were no exception, leading to several high-profile delays. And as other social activities return to everyday life, gaming’s hold on people’s attention and leisure time will begin to loosen,» reads the Newzoo report.

Cybersports in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan’s Cybersport Federation was established in 2017 with esports receiving official recognition in 2018. It was recognized by the National Olympic Committee in 2020.

In an interview with the International Esports Federation in January 2022, a representative of Kazakhstan’s Cybersport Federation said Kazakhstan has not gone far from global trends in terms of game disciplines. Such games as CS:GO, Dota 2, and FIFA 22 as well as mobile games (PUBG mobile & FreeFire) are more popular in Kazakhstan.

The federation organizes state and regional tournaments in more than 15 disciplines, including FIFA 22, Dota 2, StarCraft II, PUBG Mobile, CS: GO, eFootball PES 2021.

The average age of players in a national team range between 16 and 25 years old.

«We create infrastructure for the development of esports. We form tournament lines and provide platforms for beginners and professional cybersports athletes. In addition, we lobby for the interests of esports at the highest level, we do not let them remain in the shadows. But most importantly, we were able to make esports become another lever of the social lift for the youth of Kazakhstan. This is invaluable,» said the federation.

According to e-sports Earnings data, Kazakhstan’s cybersports people earned $947,469 in 2021. The top three countries in terms of earnings were China ($46.2 million), the United States ($26.1 million), and Russia ($22.5 million). In 2022, Kazakhstan’s players made $243,788.

According to the Strategy of Cybersports Development until 2025, the federation plans to create an electronic database of e-players, judges, and coaches in Kazakhstan, and increase the number of tournaments for fans, including through the creation of a school league and a league of civil servants. So far, it has organized 141 tournaments attracting 39,168 participants and 7,900 registered teams.

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Photo: akorda.kz