Blizzard, MLG, TwitchTV execs speak on rise of eSports

Representatives from gaming groups, streaming site discuss "explosion" of eSports during MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.

Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime, Major League Gaming CEO Sundance DiGiovanni, TwitchTV COO Kevin Lin, and Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey spoke on the "explosion of eSports" at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference recently.

Image credit: SLY Photography

The panel came together after last year's inaugural eSports panel at the conference, which saw DiGiovanni and Morhaime joined by Evil Geniuses Owner Alex Garfield and Starcraft personality Sean "Day9" Plott.

Disclosure: the panel was moderated by Rod Breslau, author of this post.

The four came to talk about the meteoric growth of eSports and competitive gaming within the last year, which saw record-breaking viewership from MLG, as well as Riot Games' Season 2 Championships.

"When we launched TwitchTV, we were at 5 million monthly unique viewers showing predominantly eSports content," Lin said on Twitch's own record-breaking growth. "By February 2012, we were up to 14 million uniques, and now this February we were just shy of 30 million uniques per month."

"On an event weekend, we'll see at its peak 6.5 million people tune in, 400,000 to 500,000 people concurrently," DiGiovanni added. "While we can't relate that directly in a apples-to-apples way to traditional TV, in the 18-24 age market, we weigh out very favorably towards things like BCS games, and ESPN's broadcasts of the NBA and baseball."

A video of the presentation is available below.

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58 comments
Quintious
Quintious

There is no such thing as an "eSport".  Having a twitchy mouse finger does not make you an athlete.

Emfanever
Emfanever

This has nothing to do this with the rise of eSports. A few weeks ago, the only competitor of twitch.tv,  own3d.tv, shut down and all streamers went to twitch. Τwitch has monopoly now.

rayzter1
rayzter1

You don't have to get it to understand it.  a) Its making money and b) its growing. 

That is all you need. Right now I believe teams aren't centralized or have a foundation but that is because it is growing and hasn't solidified or become popular enough for those teams to be recognized. Also the low-entry right now is what e-sports wants. Eventually when everyone wants to become an e-sports star because they are making 2 million a year then restrictions of entry and a core base will come around.


Also the fact that it is growing is because they are focusing on the early adopters/innovator audience. Imagine a bell curve with earl adopters at the beginning and then masses of people in the middle and late people at the end. Now put Gen Y at the start and baby boomers in the middle and older people at the end. Eventually The early adopters/gen y will affect the whole bell curve by making esports known and also by aging. 


E-sports is a growing industry and hasn't hit its peak yet.

fredwv
fredwv

the powerglove...  it's so bad

inaka_rob
inaka_rob

I don't get it. I am not saying their shouldnt be competive gambling. but its like competitiveness board gaming. Or chess. Why is it so big. 

I am ranked 26,000th in the world on Xbox live. out of 35 million. Give me some sponsorship. 

giantqtipz
giantqtipz

why are people hating on competitive gaming?

some people want to spend their lives becoming good in a certain game and make money out of it. so? let them! not everyone is interested in becoming a liar, a doctor, an engineer, or an investment banker.

and to those saying "get a real job". lol, as if you have a job or a life thats worth talking about.

do you haters even compete in anything lol? if you do, then you must know how good it feels to become good at something and to beat someone at your favorite game/sport. it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to get good at anything.  these pro gamers just want to be recognized for their talent and hard work.


KamuiFei
KamuiFei

"Sports" *Dr. Evil.meme*

ZeroX91
ZeroX91

Should stick with competitive gaming it just sounds better, but if NASCAR can be considered sport then why not?

mickyfinn84
mickyfinn84

eSports? lol. I think they should just stick to calling it gaming myself, there is nothing sporty about sitting on your arse playing games.

vadagar1
vadagar1

ty for ruining diablo >:(


I"M OUT

oflow
oflow

videos games arent sports. its an illusion and a pipe dream to compare themselves to real sports on ESPN.  If it was as big as they are claiming it was it would be on ESPN.


Esports is probably less watched than pro bowling.

BlakMagix89
BlakMagix89

SWEET!!! more esports means more retards who take a video games way too serious and suck all the fun out of them. good job f'tards!!!

CircleCGamesh0p
CircleCGamesh0p

Gaming will never be a sport the way things are going at the moment. If you ever have been involved with trying to put a team together, the drama it brings is worse than most reality shows. In the case when Halo was on MLG's circuit, the same people were always on top, bouncing from team to team after every event because they could not get along. Taking there sponserships with them to whatever team they ended up with. Never did you see "the PROS' ever try to help someone get involved with the industry. Why would you when you was so afraid of being replaced all the time. In a nutshell, esports right now is nothing more than a pyramid scheme to take money away from gamers hands. If they want to get serious, you need team contracts, free agency, combines, and team owners managers and the like. Thats never going to happen because people continue to worship the "Gaming Gods" and do not carve there own path to stardom.

capsfan887
capsfan887

"eSports" sounds so cheesy


I'm all for competitive gaming events and tournaments but trying to treat it like a traditional sport with leagues and such just comes across as silly to me.  Maybe it's just me but I think anything that involves next to no physical exertion and a machine doing half or most of the work should not be considered in the same group as football, basketball, baseball, etc.

FragRaptor
FragRaptor

@Emfanever Azubu and youtube are trying to enter it but I'm not sure how it will work out. Ustream also mentioned supporting gaming some, so  we will see what the future holds

HaK-ForgoTT3n
HaK-ForgoTT3n

@giantqtipz getting good at a video game is not a talent. You're pressing buttons, not jumping, running, throwing ect. Pressing buttons better than someone else means you play a video game more than the other person. Jumping from the foul line and dunking and running the 40 in 4.2 seconds ar god given TALENTS. Dont ever put the word "video game" and "sport" in the same sentence again. Thanks.

Ledah
Ledah

@giantqtipz The thing about "eSports" is that it actually damages the health of the player, it is not like any common sport that can keep your body in shape, the pro players play at least 8 or 9 hours straight per day if they want to keep their edge and win tournaments, otherwise you aren't making money. Just think about it, would you like your daughter/son to be playing certain game for 8 or 9 straight per day, eating poorly and having severe consequences to their health? I know most of them love to do it, go ahead I don't mind, it's nice to have diversity, but that's the main reason I think "eSports" is never going to be as strong as real sports and it will probably crash one day in the future.

Mrod1212
Mrod1212

@giantqtipz Those jobs you mentioned(Did you mean Lawyer?) actually contribute to society.

lunar1122
lunar1122

@mickyfinn84 is anything sporty about fishing or playing darts?  or how about the International Olympic Committee recognizing chess as a sport? 

Your incredibly ignorant to think that all sports have to be physical to be a sport. Its more to with the competition itself. If there is competition for something in particular and either threw skill or dexterity results in a winner,  one can argue it is indeed a sport.

FragRaptor
FragRaptor

@oflow actually it is much more watched than what you just said :P

MachShot
MachShot

Esports has never claimed they sought to overthrow traditional athletic sports. Not only that, but ESPN is an official news outlet for Major League Gaming since years ago. Feeling salty yet?

http://espn.go.com/blog/playbook/tech/post/_/id/1900/major-league-gaming-continues-to-grow

http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2012/12/20/2012-the-year-of-esports/

Like I said, esports is not like soccer in the 1990s when the soccer crowd was like "We are here to takeover American football". Esports simply is saying "We are here to stay and we will keep growing."

Feeling salty?

edgecrusherO0
edgecrusherO0

@oflow 6.5 million+ concurrent viewers watching pro bowling? I'm impressed!

edgecrusherO0
edgecrusherO0

@BlakMagix89 Yeah, those professional baseball players totally ruined my softball league.

And those pro basketball players? I'm not even going to talk about the havoc they unleashed on my weekend pickup basketball games.

RIP CASUAL SPORTS, PROFESSIONAL SPORTING HAS SLAIN THEE!

SteamyPotatoes
SteamyPotatoes

@BlakMagix89 There fun events to watch if your good at the game, much more complex than the average modern game which have had all the fun sucked out of them to cater to retards.

Poison-tooth
Poison-tooth

If accessibility is why LoL fare better than SC, i dont want SC to be succesful as a eSport. In my opinion complexity make SC appealing. Be ready to use your brain or walk away.

BlakMagix89
BlakMagix89

@CircleCGamesh0p RIGHT ON BROTHA!!!! them dramaqueens are not gods. more like prissy lil fan boys who cry when they dont get their way and throw a bigger fit when they die in a game.

SciFiRPGfan
SciFiRPGfan

@CircleCGamesh0p I don't know about Halo's competitive scene, but for example in Starcraft and Starcraft 2, there's everything you've mentioned already - there are teams with very serious and solvent image with proper contracts and everything (for example the team Evil Geniuses mentioned in the article which is famous for buying but also paying well many prestigious and popular Starcraft players and entertainers or for example Korean Starcraft Brood War teams backed by huge Korean corporations like Samsung or SK Telecom which have been going strong for more than 10 years), there are players' associations like KeSPA (Korea e-Sports Association) or eSF (e-Sports Federation) which not only promote and support e-sports, but also oversee the teams' and players' activities, solve disputes between them and help solve other problems (teams disbanding, searching for new sponsors,...).

Also, for Starcraft's scene, it wouldn't be true that pros aren't doing anything for people trying to get involved in competitive gaming - not only the pros are constantly (!) releasing the replays of their own games and are streaming with commentaries every day, but they also offer coaching lessons. Also, the teams are constantly scouting for new players, plus there are projects like Razer - Quantic academy for further involvement in e-sports.

Now I am not saying that there's not some shady stuff in SC scene as well - there have been problems with everything from players cheating to teams, tournament organizers and even broadcasters not paying people properly or on time, but this kind of problems are present in "real" sports as well. Point is, some gaming scenes are far more developed and serious than you are giving them credit for.

TrueGB
TrueGB

@capsfan887 Sports are games. What's silly is acting like they're not just because they're competitive.

Sardinar
Sardinar

@capsfan887 Football, basketball, baseball etc. are not called sports because of their physical exertion. While all of them share that element, it's completely trivial when it comes to high-end competition - everyone is already adequately fit as a requirement for participating. What does make them sports is the depth of the game's rules and conditions. If the games were so shallow that you could have 10 teams with no discernible difference in skill, then no matter how much physical activity the game required - it would not have been a sport. 

eSports are the same as your typical sports, except they don't have this inconsequential 'physical activity' requirement, though physical input is still important. What do you know, they could even have more depth and higher skill ceiling because there is no limit to what you can create with code.

gtsnake6
gtsnake6

@capsfan887 

I would agree with that but have you seen what qualifies as an Olympic sport these days (summer or winter)???

Quite hilarious when you look it up.

giantqtipz
giantqtipz

@HaK-ForgoTT3n

you sound upset buddy. but lets take a look at my posts first. where did i say the words "Electronic Sports" i call it "Professional gaming". Also please look up the words "talent" and "skill" in the dictionary. Thanks.

youll see that both talent and skill are absolutely applicable to video gaming. heck talent and skill also applies to things like drawing, playing musical instruments, typing on the keyboard and learning topics in school. it doesnt have to just apply to physical sports -_-


giantqtipz
giantqtipz

@Ledah @giantqtipz  

you can say the same thing about most office jobs. people just sit in front of computers crunching numbers or making financial models or designing projects.

these professional gamers actually lives too (they are people after all). they travel everywhere (domestic and internationally) to go to different tournaments. they play with friends. they HAVE to play with friends because their friends are mainly pro gamers too with the same skillset. its the only way they can test each others skills.

but even so, most gaming competitions dont pay a lot of money. most pro gamers have second jobs, so they do have a normal life so to speak.

the teenage pros are 15-17 years old for the most part. the successful ones are in the early-mid 20s.

dont assume that just because one gamer in korea died because of playing video games for 3 days straight, that all other serious gamers have the same issue as that guy.


Sardinar
Sardinar

@Mrod1212 @giantqtipz So you hate on professional football/baseball/tennis etc. because that doesn't contribute to society either... ? 

giantqtipz
giantqtipz

@Mrod1212 @giantqtipz  

 not the point of my post. not everyone is interested in those fields. though to me personally, the only genuinely honorable fields are anything in science. business and law? ehhh

people play poker competitively. some engage in bull riding competitions. why cant these guys play video games professionally? lol

mickyfinn84
mickyfinn84

@lunar1122  I wouldn't consider darts, fishing or chess sports either. Here is the definition of sport for you from the oxford dictionary ''An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others.''

I've got nothing against pro gaming but it isn't sport.

2bitSmOkEy
2bitSmOkEy

@Poison-tooth It's just another way of saying people find LoL more enjoyable. overall.

I'll take some quotes from the forbes article which are dead on imo.

".....Because League of Legends as a game is entirely supported by enthusiastic fans. If players were passive about the game, no champions or skins would be sold, and the game would collapse. "

"There’s less loyalty shown toward Blizzard, and the company is increasingly a house divided, constantly putting out fires on all fronts. Before this recent Starcraft 2 meltdown, there was Diablo 3 drama as fans didn’t much care for the game at release."

"Now we have World of Warcraft suffering at the hands of competing MMOs and yes, League of Legends. I’d say Diablo 3 and WoW have been higher priorities for Blizzard than Starcraft 2, and now the results of that lack of attention are showing up."

TLDR: Blizzard has been burning bridges with their fanbase, meanwhile Riot has been having incredible success purely off fan enthusiasm for LoL. 


Also, SC2 has 1/4th the complexity of Brood War.  It's a game that just doesn't quite do anything good enough.  Not to mention it's so incredibly imbalanced that you can essentially call who will win based off their race and spawn positions + basic metagame knowledge ;)

SteamyPotatoes
SteamyPotatoes

@BlakMagix89 @CircleCGamesh0p Like Football Players then

CircleCGamesh0p
CircleCGamesh0p

@SciFiRPGfan @CircleCGamesh0p Its just pure anarchy anyway. I guess if you can afford to throw money at it until you win and event go for it. Unfortunately most people in the US cant afford the time or the internet to be able to practice to make it at a professional level. You dont see high school teams playing each other in starcraft against their crosstown rivel every week to try to get college scholarships to play for stanford. Then move on to get drafted to the houston prowlers professional starcraft team. Right now there is no way to produce new players unless your rich or on welfare with great internet. In order to get to the point of being a sport you have to impress average joe. ya know the guy that sits at buffalo wild wings and watches baseball. If you can generate that kind of interest, then i can see where your coming from. Until then I cannot.

capsfan887
capsfan887

@TrueGB @capsfan887 I wasn't aware I made that claim.  A game is any activity that involves a predetermined set of rules and guidelines, which a sport would fall under.  That doesn't mean every game in existence has equal legitimacy to the claim of being a sport.

Otherwise I'd like to take this opportunity to declare myself as the #1 seed and reigning champion of the newly founded sport of Major League Tic-Tac-Toe.


capsfan887
capsfan887

@Sardinar @capsfan887 Actually part of the very definition most popular sources go by cite the specific parameter of physical exertion as a part requirement in what defines a sport.  Regardless, it's only my opinion that they don't belong in the same group but to say that the physical exertion aspect of traditional sports is "trivial" is completely ridiculous.  If it were trivial why isn't there more parity in athlete rankings, why do some athletes consistently perform their roles better than all others, wouldn't the rankings be far less predictable?  Not just the individual players, wouldn't team parity be far higher, because after all it wouldn't matter who you had on your team if everybody was "adequate"?  What would be the point in paying more for certain athletes over others if everybody were near the same level? 

You'll have to enlighten me as to the "eSports" side of things as I obviously don't pay attention to it.  You can have 10 teams with little to no discernible difference in skill in eSports, could you not?  One would think it would be far easier to find this scenario with eSports than with your traditional sports.  Is there a major league where the same teams and players are consistently ranking higher than all others? 

capsfan887
capsfan887

@gtsnake6 @capsfan887 No kidding, there's been a serious push for Poker and Chess to become Olympic sports.


At this rate, maybe in a few years I can go for the gold for Uno.

SciFiRPGfan
SciFiRPGfan

@Mrod1212 @Sardinar @giantqtipz So do some progamers. There are charity events, charity streams, donations and whatnot as well.

Of course, the amounts of money aren't as great as donations made by players from much more popular and profitable sports, but the idea to help those less fortunate is basically the same.

Mrod1212
Mrod1212

@Sardinar @Mrod1212 @giantqtipz I'm not hating on them. Also many players contribute in helping their communities and many organizations donate a pretty sum of money to good causes like cancer research.

HaK-ForgoTT3n
HaK-ForgoTT3n

@lunar1122 I agree with mickyfinn84. I do not consider darts, fishing, and chess sports either. They should be called something different. I don't know why the Olympic committee calls chess a sport. Anyway, gaming isn't considered a sport by the Olympic committee, so its not a sport either.

lunar1122
lunar1122

@mickyfinn84 thats the point, it doesnt matter what you consider a sport. Because DARTS , FISHING , AND CHESS ARE RECOGNIZED AS SPORTS. 


Esports is called esports and not sports for a reason .  Because it stands for ELECTRONIC SPORTS. Its not simply saying its a sport. It specifically mentions Electronic Sports.

2bitSmOkEy
2bitSmOkEy

@Poison-tooth @2bitSmOkEy Then you would bet wrong.  I haven't touched it in over a year, but I used to be GM on NA and I would regularly beat some korean and EU pros that would come to smurf on our ladder.

2bitSmOkEy
2bitSmOkEy

@Poison-tooth Simple compared to previous Blizzard rts, yes.  Not imbalanced? wtf game are you watching/playing.  It has been broken since beta.  

Entire races dominate during a patch period until they patch out that metagame, then a different race dominates.  David Kim basically takes turns with which race will be over powered by patching the metagame to however he sees fit (though it usually coincides with community feedback).


Poison-tooth
Poison-tooth

Simple and «incredibly imbalanced» is not an accurate description of SC2 in my opinion. 

SciFiRPGfan
SciFiRPGfan

@CircleCGamesh0p @SciFiRPGfan Yeah. In this regard, I feel little sorry for the US scene :(. In US, there are some of the best and most entertaining tournaments in Starcraft (MLG, IPL, NASL), some of the best casters in the business (Artosis, Tasteless, Wolf, Incontrol) and American fans  are absolutely amazing (IMO), but the players... yeah they have it quite hard (the prize money probably aren't that interesting for American standards of living - not that American players have a shot at winning more interesting prizes unfortunately, there is distinctive lack of small local tournaments and on-line cups, huge distances and timezones can't be helpful either when it comes to practice and in general, it seems that competitive gaming is looked down a bit more in America than let's say in Europe or in Asia).

But not everything is lost. For example, Collegiate Starleague, basically an intercollegiate league for NA colleges and universities (http://wiki.teamliquid.net/starcraft2/Collegiate_Starleague) is a very promising project, that could turn out to be quite successful in future. I mean American universities and colleges have a good reputation for producing successful sportsmen in various sports. Maybe one day they will be good at producing successful progamers as well.