September 9, 2016
Just a few short years ago, video games were considered the play things of nerds and couch potatoes. But today, dozens of tournaments, competitions, and even television networks have provided gamers and viewers with an avenue to enjoy their favorite first-person shooters and role-playing games. While many players have been in limbo waiting for legitimacy to take hold, a few premier North American teams have decided to take matters into their own hands by creating the Professional eSports Association (PEA), a league committed to professional eSports and focused on bringing unprecedented benefits to pro players.
A League that Cares
While the Electronic Sports League has provided a community for gamers and teams to compete in tournaments and competitions on a regular basis, the PEA aims to further legitimize eSports as a real sport that deserves a real professional sports league. Seven elite teams have signed on to share profits and responsibility, much like a real professional sports league, and they will be the first organization to provide benefits to players.
“This marks the end of the ‘Wild West’ days of eSports,” said Jack Etienne, CEO of Cloud9 in a press release. “The community and players want stability and dependability. Leagues come and go, teams join them and depart, but with the PEA, the teams are making a long-term commitment to be here, playing for the fans, for the indefinite future.”
An Actual Sport?
The popularity of eSports is undeniable. They have reached audiences up to 214 millions viewers in 2016 alone, with a potential viewership as high as 300 million by the end of 2019. And with eSports earnings hitting almost $1 billion this year, a professional league was obviously the next step.
For those of you still insisting that eSports will never become as legitimate as “actual sports,” keep in mind that this is exactly how “actual sports” became so popular. Great teams joining forces to turn their games into jobs. Most of the professional leagues started out with two competing leagues that eventually merged. AFL and NFL, NBA and ABA, the list goes on. And if you’re still holding out hope that eSports could never be considered an actual sport, they’re already being considered for an Olympic event.
“This has been the architecture of traditional major sports leagues for many decades, but it is a new evolution for eSports,”said Jason Katz, commissioner of the PEA. “This will allow us to finally build a stable, healthy, long-term environment for the players, the community, the media and the sponsors.”
Everything’s Going to be OK
So why are you so worried? Because change is weird. There hasn’t been a significant addition to the professional sports league lineup in a long time, and the potential for video games to be the fifth member of the “Big Four” (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) is unsettlingly.
But rather than fighting change with every fiber of your being, why not embrace the fact that you are seeing history in the making? Between undeniable popularity and the right architecture for legitimacy, this league is going to happen (on January 1st, 2017). There’s no use in fighting it. Because video games are going to be around for a long time, and monetizing their popularity would be done right lucrative.
Photo: Flickr / Michael Arsers
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