Across the globe technology has infiltrated the sporting world in a plethora of ways. From goal-line technology in soccer to an animated strike zone in baseball, everyone’s grandfather has had plenty of opportunities to complain about the advent of electronics into the sacristy of sport. Sunday night on ESPN2, things will change forever.
The entertainment software development company Blizzard has announced that the finals of its tournament for the video game Heroes of the Storm will air live on ESPN2 at 9 p.m. PT. This is a groundbreaking development for the gaming industry, and an event that will make the online gaming spectrum marketable to the masses for the first time.
The potential effect on the growth of the gaming industry here is monumental. It is no secret that online gaming viewership has risen incrementally over the past decade, specifically League of Legends tournaments that sell out Los Angeles’ Staples Center and are watched by millions on the streaming service Twitch. Yet putting one of these events on basic cable was unheard of, until now. A booming industry, online video game competitions are reaching a level of profit that will force the major networks to take notice, or be bypassed by the next big thing.
Analysts predict that pro-gaming, with its advertising, ticket sales, and more, will make around $465 million by 2017.
Regardless of the expected cash totals and ratings, some industry execs are not sold on video games ascension into the spectrum of modern entertainment viewership. ESPN’s president John Skipper had some harsh words for the video game crowd last year, shooting down the idea of virtual gaming as an entertainment medium from a third-person perspective.
“It’s not a sport — it’s a competition,” said Skipper. “Chess is a competition. Checkers is a competition. Mostly, I’m interested in doing real sports.”
So basically the National Spelling Bee, World Series of Poker, and various lumberjack competitions fit the ESPN definition of sport, but not a competition that has some finals net over 32 million viewers worldwide.
Regardless of the comments made by the president of the Disney-owned entity, the advent of a gaming tournament’s finals onto cable is not just huge, its game changing. Imagine a world in which the USC Trojans can take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a Halo tournament or perhaps a round of the newest Mario Kart installment? The possibilities for competition in this medium are endless, and Blizzard is at the forefront of the video gaming revolution.
The event, titled “Heroes of the Dorm” will feature the final four schools competing towards the final prize in an event called “The Heroic Four” to not step on the NCAA’s toes. California, Boston College, Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Arizona State will head the competition that will begin on ESPN3, the network’s online channel. E-sports are watched by million on the aforementioned Twitch Network, as well as MLG.tv, and could foreshadow a younger generation’s shift of interest from “real” sports to the virtual kind.
Taking video game competitions and placing them on cable is an immeasurable transition. No longer will the viewers for these events be characterized as the comic book guy from The Simpsons. As of Sunday night, the average American can tune into relatively unknown world of competitive computer gaming and witness the dawn of a new age of televised sports in an electronic world.