"South Korea is one of the forerunners in eSports.
It was one of the first in the world to come up with the concepts of "game leagues" and "pro-gamers."
It all started around the late 1990s at PC rooms like the one I'm at right now.
People would gather with their friends to play online games, and watch each other.
PC room management noticed this trend, and started holding tournaments against each otherto choose the best gamer in each district.
Back then, the most popular game was Starcraft.
Decades later eSports has grown exponentially here in Korea.
And let's find out how."
The history of eSports can be traced back to Starcraft.
Released in 1998this online game instantly made it big.
Because Korea had just the right infrastructure.
Unlike computers at home, these internet cafes had high speed internet and top-notch hardware.
"Starcraft became a national game. Students would rush to PC rooms after school. Adults would come right after work. Everyone was playing it. Because Starcraft and online games became so popular, South Korean broadcasters decided to televise some matches. Nobody had thought about it before. The combination of gaming and broadcasting hit the jackpot. It turned out users enjoyed watching others play because they could relate to them and learn some hacks themselves."
From playing games to watching games.
South Korea had started a new trend
And as society became more digital, eSports inevitably became bigger.
A range of new broadcast platforms emerged, making game streaming easier and more accessible.
New games have been released and added to the eSports category.
The biggest eSports game in Korea right now is League of Legends.
The game has over 150 million users around the world, and 16 percent of them are based in Korea.
League of Legends holds two major global eSports tournaments: Mid-Season Invitational and World Championship.
And in each of them, South Korea has produced a winning team.
One of them is T1with a world-class player named Faker.
Faker is the only player in the world to have won the League of Legends World Championship three times.
Thanks to him, the eSports market in Korea has grown even bigger.
“This year’s MSI is being held here in Busan.
Excitement fills the air, as fans from across the world came to see one of the biggest eSports tournaments in person.
Even those who couldn’t buy tickets were able to participate in the MSI experience by taking pictures in front of billboards of their favorite Korean professional gamers.
I myself would like to take a picture with T1's Faker."
"I couldn't get tickets to all the matches, so I came to watch just one. But it was disappointing that I couldn't go to all of them. It would've been fun."
"I actually went to MSI to see team T1 play in person. But I also came here to take pictures as if I'm standing up close to my favorite pro gamers."
After realizing just how popular pro gamers are … companies started approaching eSports teams about potential sponsorship deals.
Brand partnerships have become the foundation on which the eSports market has been built.
Industry insiders believe that sponsorships accounted for more than 60% of global eSports revenues in 2021.
"We have a captive audience whose second screen focus. So we have high end digital users So I think advertisers and partners really saw esports as an opportunity to kind of expand their reach to the younger consumers."
The domestic eSports industry has seen double-digit growth almost every year.
The average annual growth rate from 2015 to 2019 was 17.9%.
“You can tell just how big eSports is here in Korea…because there’s an orchestra performance…with some of the country's most renowned classical musicians…playing the iconic music from the game League of Legends. “
This sort of performance was first held last year.
The game's developer, Riot Games said they've been holding this sort of event after recognizing the size of the fanbase in Korea.
"It's no doubt that Korea is the mecca for eSports. There's just so much demand for it. We've seen tickets for this orchestra performance sell like hotcakes since last year. You can sense the excitement as fans dress up as their favorite characters and run out during the intermission to buy merchandise."
To have even more fun at this event, many fans have dressed up as some of their favorite game characters.
"Which character did you dress up as?"
"I dressed up as the character Ashe."
"I'm Miss Fortune."
"Should we go around and share our character's signature pose or phrase?"
"All the world on one arrow."
"My wings are bound but my soul flies."
eSports are getting more views than many conventional sports.
Game research company Newzoo found that by 2018the number of people who watched eSports topped 167 million people.
That's much more than the number who watched major league baseball.
Since then, eSports viewership has jumped by an average 14 percent each year.
That's why eSports has been selected as an official medal sport at the 19th Asian Games, for the first time ever.
"Our country is already well known for its advanced methods of training professional gamers. We will hone this training system by allocating more of our budget and expanding the required infrastructure before the Games. We're also hoping to launch more policies that can protect gamers and secure a fair gaming environment. Ultimately we hope to produce more world-class gamers like Faker."
To live up to the reputation of being the home of eSports Team South Korea is doing its best to prepare for the Asian Games.
Shin Ye-eun, Arirang News.
#eSports #LeagueofLegends #Faker