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Visualized: The Esports Journey to Mainstream

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esports journey to mainstream

Visualized: The Esports Journey to Mainstream

Although esports might seem like a relatively new phenomenon, its origins can be traced all the way back to the 1970s.

It was only in the past decade however, that a wave of technological innovation transformed the entire industry from an underground niche into a billion-dollar mainstream phenomenon.

Today, the nascent esports industry competes with some of the biggest sports leagues in the U.S., while global tech giants hastily invest billions of dollars to make their mark in what many consider to be the future of sports and entertainment.

How did it evolve into the industry we know today—and more importantly, will it maintain its furious pace of growth?

The History of Esports

Electronic sports (or esports), are organized, multiplayer video game competitions commonly played by professional gamers. Since its inception, the industry has continued to exceed expectations and reach new milestones every decade.

Note: The timeline of events are an abridged version of major achievements in the industry.

1970s: The Birth of Esports

The earliest known video game competition—the Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics—took place in 1972 at Stanford University. The winner of the event received an annual subscription to Rolling Stone magazine.

While it was a modest first prize for the industry, it would set a foundation for future prize pools in the millions of dollars.

1980s: More Gaming Options

The 1980s ushered in better consoles for esports. The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) took graphics, controls, gameplay, and video game accessibility to the next level.

Five years later, the Sega Genesis console was released in the U.S. and Japan to compete with Nintendo—which held a 95% market monopoly at the time.

1990s: The First Tournaments

Nintendo increased its commitment to esports by hosting the Nintendo World Championships. After touring 30 cities in the U.S., the finals challenged players to games like Super Mario Bros. and Tetris, with a 40-inch TV awarded to the winner.

Developers and gaming entrepreneurs created a flurry of leagues, including QuakeCon in 1996, followed by both the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) and the Professional Gamers League (PGL) in 1997.

In just a few years, these competitions helped esports gain significant traction.

2000s: The Explosion of Esports

Esports fully burst into the mainstream with Amazon’s acquisition of Twitch for $970 million in 2014. The live video game streaming site gave esports a platform to reach previously unthinkable heights, with popular games like League of Legends (LoL) and Defense of the Ancients 2 (Dota) receiving millions of views.

In 2019, Google followed suit with its Stadia streaming service. The cloud-based video game platform aims to eliminate the need for hardware, allowing Google to aggressively compete in the esports space.

A Snapshot of Esports Today

The increasing involvement of developers and global tech giants has not only increased the audience size of esports—it has also led to bigger prize pools, and larger scale competitions across the world.

  • Demographics: 50% of esports viewership now comes from Asia.
  • Engagement: 6 billion hours were dedicated to watching esports in 2018, and will continue to grow to 9 billion by 2021.
  • Buy-in: The price of one of the 12 Overwatch League teams for sale in 2017 was $20 million.
  • Incentives: The Fortnite competition prize pool for the 2018 season was $100 million—equal to the entire esports prize pool in 2017.

It’s clear that esports continues to attract rapidly growing audiences at an unprecedented rate. However, there are still significant barriers inhibiting the industry from reaching its full potential.

The Future of esports

In order to maintain its furious pace of growth, the esports industry must first address five key challenges:

  • Diversity of game genres: The industry will need to produce more game genres in order to appeal to a wider audience outside of its current player base.
  • Geographic expansion of leagues: esports will need to expand to national, regional, and global levels if it wants to tap into bigger advertising budgets. However, while esports gains attention from global media, local events are more difficult to organize.
  • Regulation of competitions: With multimillion-dollar prize pools at stake, new rules and regulations are needed to combat cheating and match fixing.
  • Ownership of media rights: Content rights have not been a focus for publishers, as fan-generated content has served as free advertising for their games.
  • Media alignment: Traditional media brands are still reluctant to associate themselves with esports, as prejudices against competitive gaming still exist. For example, gaming culture is viewed as a harmful distraction, rather than a legitimate sport.

In less than 50 years, esports has evolved into a dominant form of entertainment today, eclipsing film and music industries by a wide margin. With an increasingly mainstream audience, the industry’s popularity and profitability shows no signs of slowing down—despite the challenges it faces.

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Here’s What Happens Every Minute on the Internet in 2020

A lot can happen in an internet minute. This graphic looks at the enormous numbers behind the online services billions use every day.

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What Happens Every Minute on the Internet in 2020

In 2020, an unfathomable amount of digital activity is occurring at any given moment. This ongoing explosion in activity is the aggregate output of 4.5 billion internet users today, a number that’s projected to increase even further in coming years.

This powerful visual from Domo helps capture what happens each minute in today’s hyper-connected internet era, and it’s actually the eighth edition produced since the year 2012.

What can we learn from the evolution of what happens in an internet minute?

How Times Have Changed

Over its relatively short history, the internet has been a catalyst for both the rise and demise of new companies and platforms.

By looking at which brands have appeared in the graphic in earlier years, we can roughly chart the prominence of certain tech segments, as well as observe brands with the most staying power.

data never sleeps wheel over time

As you can see above, platforms like Tumblr, Flickr, and Foursquare showed some promise, but eventually got omitted from the graphic as they dropped off in relevance.

Meanwhile, tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google have had impressive staying power, evolving to become some of the biggest companies in the world. In the process, they’ve caught up to longer-standing titans like Apple and Microsoft at the top of the food chain.

The New “New Thing”

Not surprisingly, much of the internet landscape looks different in 2020. Here are a few of the digital hot spots today.

Cash Transfers
Nearly $240,000 worth of transactions occur on Venmo per minute. This has served as a catalyst for parent company PayPal, which evolved along successfully with fintech trends. PayPal’s stock now trades at near all-time highs.

E-Commerce
Even before COVID-19 resulted in shuttered storefronts and surging online orders, e-commerce was a booming industry. It’s now estimated that $1 million is now spent per minute online. Amazon ships an astounding 6,659 packages every minute to keep up with this demand.

Collaboration Tools
In a predominantly remote-working environment, tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams host 208,333 and 52,083 users each minute respectively. Particularly in the pandemic era, it seems that this trend is here to stay.

Accelerated Turnover

The accelerated world we are in today means that many companies do not sustain a competitive advantage for as long. Social media companies have dwindled as observed above, and this is similarly reflected in the average lifespan of an S&P 500 company.

A typical company’s tenure on the S&P 500 is expected to shrink rapidly in the next few years:

  • 1964: 33 years
  • 2016: 24 years
  • 2027E: 12 years

Companies are shaving anywhere between 15-20 years off those highs, with estimates of further declines. This metric symbolizes the rapid evolution of the business landscape.

What Lies Ahead

It’s seemingly easy to forget mankind is still very early in the developments when it comes to the internet. But in this short period, its rise to prominence and the broad digitization of the world has left us with a very eventful timeline.

If the last decade serves as a reference point, one can expect further and intensifying competition among tech companies. After all, the reward—winning in today’s digital economy—reaps much greater value.

All signs point to internet activity advancing to further heights, if not because of 5G and its associated breakthroughs, then perhaps due to the steady rise in people gaining internet access.

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Ranked: The Most Popular Websites Since 1993

This animation provides an interesting overview of the websites with the highest traffic over the last few decades, and how the rankings have changed.

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The Most Popular Websites Since 1993

The internet has become an increasingly important part of our everyday lives.

While it’s hard to imagine modern life without Google or YouTube, it’s interesting to reflect on how much the web has changed over the last few decades.

This animation by Captain Gizmo provides a historical rundown of the most popular websites since 1993, showing how much the internet has evolved since the early ’90s.

The Top Websites

While the web has changed drastically over the years, the top-ranking websites have remained relatively consistent. Here’s a look at the websites with the most traffic since 1993, and when each site held the number one spot:

Date RangeTop Ranking Website
Highest Number of Monthly Visits
Jan 1993 - Jun 2000AOL405,000,000
Jul 2000 - May 2006
Yahoo
5,500,000,000
Jun 2006 - Jul 2008
Google8,300,000,000
Aug 2008 - Jun 2010
Yahoo11,600,000,000
Jul 2010 - current
Google81,000,000,000

*Note: Numbers rounded for clarity.

AOL

AOL was one of the first major web portals, back in the era of CD-ROMs and dial-up modems. In its heyday, the company dominated the market, largely due to an aggressive free trial campaign that cost millions (possibly even billions) of dollars to execute.

Despite the large investment, the campaign worked—at its peak, AOL had over 30 million users, and a market cap of over $200 billion. It was the most popular website online until the early 2000s, when broadband started to replace dial-up. As the sands shifted, AOL struggled to stay relevant and was eventually sold to Verizon for just $4.4 billion.

Yahoo

Following AOL’s downfall, Yahoo became the next internet giant.

Starting off as a web directory, Yahoo was the first website to offer localized indexes for major cities. At Yahoo’s zenith, it was worth $125 billion, but a series of missed opportunities and failed acquisitions meant that it could not keep up. Like AOL, Yahoo is now also owned by Verizon, but remains a top 10 website globally.

Google

It’s no surprise that Google currently comes in at number one. It started out in the early ’90s as a university research project. Today, it’s become virtually synonymous with the internet, which makes sense, considering 90% of all internet searches are made on Google-owned properties.

Old School Search Engines

Prior to Google’s success, there were several other go-to search engines that paved the way for Google in many ways:

  • WebCrawler: One of the earlier search engines, WebCrawler was the first search engine to enable full-text search. At one point, the website was so popular, it’s server would constantly crash, making it virtually unusable during peak hours.
  • Lycos: This was another pivotal search engine, created in 1994 (a year before Yahoo). Lycos was the first of its kind to incorporate relevance retrieval, prefix matching, and word proximity.
  • Infoseek: As Netscape’s default search engine, Infoseek was popular during the web browser’s heyday. Eventually, Infoseek was purchased by Disney and rebranded to go.com.

Unlike Infoseek, Lycos and WebCrawler have somehow managed to stick around—both companies still exist today. Of course, they’re nowhere near comparable to Google in terms of revenue or daily search volume.

The Evolution of Social Media

Unless you are a Gen Zer, you probably remember MySpace. Like Lycos and WebCrawler, MySpace technically still exists, although it’s certainly not the high traffic site it used to be.

Created in 2004, MySpace became a hub for musicians and music fans on the web. In just a year, the website saw massive growth, and by 2005, it was acquired by News Corp. MySpace continued to dominate the social media landscape until 2008, when Facebook took over as the internet’s most popular social media platform.

Facebook’s story is well-known at this point. The Zuckerberg-led creation was a social networking site that was exclusive to Harvard students, but it soon opened up to dozens of other universities and then finally the general public in 2006. Just two years later, and the site had 100 million active users, rising to the top of the social media spectrum.

Although Facebook often finds itself mired in controversy today, the site remains the world’s most popular social media platform on the internet with close to 3 billion users.

What’s Next?

It’s hard to predict what the future holds for Facebook, or for any of the other websites currently dominating the web.

If anything is clear from the above animation, it’s that the list of the world’s most popular websites is constantly shifting—and only time will tell what the next few decades will bring.

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