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Unveiling the Fascinating History of eSports

Recently we’ve written about eSports, what it is, which eSports games people play the most and which eSports casinos are considered to be the best. But what about the history of eSports? Do you know when it all began and how eSports got as popular as it is today?

If you wish to learn about the origins of eSports, join us on our journey through the past as we look at the biggest eSports events in history and uncover the fascinating history of eSports.

Origins of Video Games

So, how did the history of eSports begin? Short answer: with the invention of video games. 

The first-ever video game was created in 1947 but it wasn’t until the mid-1950s that competitive video games took over the world. 1958 in particular was a significant year as that was when Tennis for Two was launched. As the two-player game was born so did the history of eSports begin.

The history of eSports began with the release of Tennis for Two in 1958.

Fast forward to the 1970s when consoles and arcade games took over the world. In 1972 the first console game was connected to a TV set and later on arcades allowed people to gather around in public and play games like Pong.

All this led to the creation of the games we today know as eSports.

Notable Moments for the Rise of eSports

Here are some of the most notable moments in the eSports timeline:

  • On 19th October, 1972 the first eSports tournament was held at Stanford University. The game was called Spacewar! and there were 24 players competing in the so-called “Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics”.
  • The famous game Space Invaders was released in 1980 and the tournament that occurred that year was a huge milestone for the rise of eSports. The biggest championship of the era, it attracted a total of 10,000 participants.
  • Various eSports events were televised in the 1980s, including the American show Starcade which aired from 1982 to 1984 where contestants battled each other and fought for the top score in an arcade game. The series ran for 133 episodes.
  • Track & Field was released in 1984 and the international arcade competition held by Konami and Centuri gathered around over a million players from Japan and North America.
  • In the 1990s fighting games were on the rise. Titles like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat popularized the type of gameplay that featured one player fighting another player directly. Street Fighter II, in particular, is credited with this feat.
  • In 2000, the Korea e-Sports Association (KeSPA) was founded to promote and regulate eSports as part of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. The main goal of this South Korean body was to work towards making sure eSports became an official sporting event.
  • In 2004, a fighting game event by the name of Evolution Championship Series (EVO) was held in Pomona, California. The tournaments featured nine fighting games, including Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike and Marvel vs. Capcom 2, and drew in 700 participants from over 30 nations.
  • 2000s overall saw a rise in gaming TV channels and TV shows in the USA. One of the most famous TV channels that primarily focused on video games called G4 (aka G4TV) soft launched with a week-long series of Pong matches. The channel was relaunched in 2021.
  • In 2013, a professional gamer by the name of Danny “Shiphtur” Le was the first person to receive a P-1 athletic visa for eSports from the United States Department of State. This event marked the beginning of professional gamers being recognized as athletes.
  • Today there are hundreds of eSports tournaments and leagues all over the world. 

The First Ever eSports Tournament

As mentioned before, the first recognized eSports tournament was held in 1972 at Stanford University for the game Spacewar. As 24 participants battled it out for a year’s subscription to the Rolling Stone magazine, the tourney became part of eSports history. It was only later on, however, that prizes became what they usually are today: cash.

Dawn of eSports

As you can see from the timeline, the consoles and fighter games of the 1990s and 2000s were the pivotal era for the dawn of eSports as we know it today. 

What contributed to the development of eSports the most in this era, however, was the rise of PCs. Not only were they soon to be found in almost every household, but more and more gamers gathered at public and private places to play their favourite video games thanks to LAN networks. 

Rise of eSports

These early meetups then became clans that paved the way for professional gamers who would then compete against one another in tournaments. As Internet connections and privacy configurations advanced, so the championships became larger and more significant.

A person wearing eSports t-shirt in a victory pose

Games that marked this time period, such as Doom, Quake, Unreal Tournament and StarCraft, are now an integral part of eSports history. 

Modern eSports

It can be said that modern eSports truly began with the advent of streaming platforms, most notably Twitch. Thanks to these platforms, large eSports tournaments were easily held and watched live by thousands - and soon millions - of fans.

The most popular games of this period include Defense of the Ancients (more widely known as DotA), FIFA, DotA 2, Call of Duty (CoD), StarCraft II and the game that is said to be the most popular to this day: League of Legends (LoL). Just in 2017, the League of Legends community included as many as 81 million people.

In 2017, the global League of Legends audience was estimated to number 81 million people.

Truthfully, compared to the early days of eSports, modern eSports is much larger in scale. According to Statista, in 2017 the global eSports audience was said to number a total of 191 million people with the US having the largest community of 43 million. 

Biggest Tournaments Today

Today, eSports tournaments are as popular as can be with prize pools reaching millions of dollars.

Here are some of the biggest tournaments of this year with their estimated prize pools:

  1. The League of Legends Worlds - between $2.25 million and $3 million
  2. The Fortnite Champion Series - $4 million
  3. The PUBG Mobile Global Championship - $4.5 million
  4. The International (annual DotA 2 eSports tournament) - between $25 million and $30 million
  5. The Land of Heroes - a staggering $45 million!

eSports of Tomorrow

History of gambling is long and every casino game has seen a progression from its early days to today, eSports included. Back in the day, who would’ve thought eSports would be part of mainstream culture?

Therefore, we cannot know for sure what awaits in the future; eSports might evolve into something new but one thing is for sure: the eSports journey doesn’t end here.