Team Infused, professional eSports athletes in the Gfinity Elite Series (Source HP)
If you've ever watched an eSports competition and wondered to yourself, can this ever outpace mainstream sports? Here's your answer: it already has. More people watched the League of Legends World Championship than the Masters, Stanley Cup or NBA Finals. In the US, eSports events regularly sell out stadiums, offer multi-million-dollar prizes and occur so often, odds are one is happening right now. With awareness of eSports growing 22 per cent every year, the trend is not slowing down.
New hardware is driving more immersive, high-speed experiences, pushing gamers to become sharper, more competitive athletes in an incredibly demanding arena. The transition to 4K TV is expected to add billions to the gaming market, and the transition to virtual reality that much more. And the athletes are rising to the challenge. eSports competitors are increasingly performing at the level of turf-bound professionals, committing to 50+ hours-per-week training regimens to maintain the agility and winning psychology of their 'traditional' sports peers. Research even suggests that the best pro gamers' reaction times are as fast as fighter pilots.
In the gaming world, the UK is playing an increasingly significant role. Gaming revenues are nearing $4 billion per year and growing steadily, making us the sixth largest gaming market on Earth. All this growth is driven by a core group of nearly 20 million people who spend an average of $206 per year in the sector, and will invest even more in the years to come.
Yet, with all this attention, progress, and increasingly large sponsorships, eSports athletes earn far less than their traditional sports peers. Creating more opportunity for elite gamers will be top of the agenda this week, as HP hosts pro players, eSports journalists and industry experts at an event in London to debate the future of UK eSports. We'll be asking what lessons eSports athletes can learn from traditional sports to help them dominate the game. It's part of our wider support of the UK's professional gaming community, which includes our role as hardware partner for the Gfinity Elite Series, a professional eSports league.
With hardware and industry support enabling gamers to push their sport to the next level, I believe the competition we see today is just the beginning. Driving my two boys around on the weekends from gaming event to gaming event, I've seen first-hand the growth in UK competitive gaming from a grassroots movement, to a major commercial sport. Creating the hardware and economic context for its future - to me - is more than just a job.
Technology advancements are powering a new breed of pro gamers, teams, competitions and even stadiums, drawing in new fans as well as big businesses and big sponsorship deals. As we blur the lines between the digital and physical worlds, it'll be sooner than we think that all sports fans - not just gamers - will be grabbing a pint to watch elite eSports in pubs and living rooms across the country.