This article was contributed by JBatchelder , a freelance writer. If you’d like to contribute to the Skillshot blog, please DM Skillshot Media on Twitter.
Do you remember what you were doing when you were 16? It wouldn't be far-fetched to assume you were playing video games on your friend's couch. That isn't too different from what 16-year-old Kyle Giersdorf was doing on July 28, 2019 after he won the Fortnite World Cup solo finals in New York . . . except that he got paid $3 million for it.
It's no secret that esports is huge. The International: DOTA 2 Championship alone draws crowds of over 335 million worldwide, all tuning in to watch teams play for a prize pool of $25.5 million — the largest in esports history. With esports set to get even bigger, it's safe to say that more and more people are gunning to be the best in the world. To get a beat on where the next great esports athletes will come from, let's check out the continents that are experiencing the most growth in esports.
Today, esports is an entire branch of entertainment in the United States. Fornite streamers such as Ninja have drawn in a record-breaking 600,000 concurrent viewers on their gaming streams. To add to this, ESPN debuted their collegiate video game esports championship back in March 2019 — cementing its place in the American mainstream. Here in Georgia, esports' foundations are being strengthened from the ground up as Georgia is one of only five states to recognize esports as a sport on the high school level. The University of Georgia, meanwhile, offers scholarships to esports teams. Three years ago, international gaming festival DreamHack added Atlanta as a city and has experienced record growth since year over year.
Further up north, Canada is set to open the country's first dedicated esports stadium in Richmond, British Columbia. Once open, it will be the hub for major esports events in Canada and will play host to various tournaments. The stadium will reportedly seat around 250 spectators and will allow for 40 gaming set-ups along with a casual gaming area open to all.
Although Asia is known for gaming capitals like South Korea and Japan, China is not too far behind. China listed esports as an official sport in 2003 and declared it a national industry back in 2016. Companies such as the Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings have both set up venues all over China that host esports tournaments, some even on a weekly basis. To cap it off, esports will be an official medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games in China.
The Philippines is also a notable up-and-comer in the esports industry.
"Filipino e-gamers have tremendous talent and potential to conquer the global gaming arena," explains industry supporter and former Philippine senator Senator Bam Aquino.
Since August 2017, esports has been further legitimized by the Gaming and Amusements Board of the Philippines, even going as far as adding five esports games into the 2019 iteration of the Southeast Asian Games. The country also hosted the Manila Major back in 2016 — a sign of good things to come for the Philippine esports industry.
The Dubai X-Stadium is set to be a dedicated video gaming venue for the rapidly growing esports industry in the Middle East, hopefully positioning it as a future capital for hosting esports events.
"We are living in a world where digital culture is reshaping all aspects of life, including sports," says Mona Ghanem Al Marri, director-general of the Dubai Media Office. "This has led us to develop the concept of Dubai X-Stadium, which will consolidate Dubai's status as a key digital economy hub."
The government's adamant support in the growth of the industry only ensures the future of esports in the Middle East.
MBC, or the Middle East Broadcasting Center based in Dubai, recently announced that it would be setting up the Middle East’s first professional esports league in partnership with the Electronic Sports League. The country is also playing host to the world finals of the Girl Gamer Esports Festival in December — an impressive feat and a step towards inclusivity.
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The rise of esports on a global level is indicative of the development of how we perceive sports and entertainment, and how the term athlete no longer only refers to those who play on a pitch, court, or field. And while many people have different opinions about esports, there's no denying its inevitable rise — with Statista predicting that the industry will hit $1.790 billion by 2022.