By John Daly
If the names Ross Boomsocks, Gross Gore, and Rezone mean nothing to you, it’s probably because of your age.
They are some of the video-game monikers adopted by leading players in the eSports industry, one of the world’s fastest-growing entertainment sectors. It is estimated that it will be worth €1.25bn annually by 2020.
At the E-Stars finals at the 3 Arena this weekend, all the glitz of professional video-gaming will be on display to a live audience of thousands, while streaming worldwide to millions.
Some of these masters of the art of video gaming, who are aged in their teens and early 20s, earn huge money for playing Call Of Duty, Fortnite, and Grand Theft Auto.
But most folk over a certain age are unaware of them. ESports, also known as electronic sports or pro-gaming, is a competition that uses video games.
These are organised, multi-player video-game competitions between professional players and comprise a number of formats, including a first-person shooter and multi-player online battle arena.
“The league provides a platform, where competitors can test their mettle,” says Mags Byrne, managing director of Three Ireland’s EStars.
Launched in 2011, Twitch.tv, the main online platform for eSports, began as a minor site, streaming live content to an interactive audience.
Showcasing the skills of professional streamers — people who play video games for a living — the site quickly went from three million to 20m monthly visitors, and has since grown to hundreds of millions.
It eventually attracted the attention of Amazon, who bought it for €810m, in August, 2014.
The Twitch.tv financial model operates on subscription fees and advertising, but has also mined a rich vein of revenue, by allowing fans to purchase items like custom chat rooms, or to have a streamer read a personal message during a live broadcast.
In 2017, Twitch.tv users clocked more than 355m minutes, watching two million streamers.
At 46m viewers, more people watched the Legends World Championships than did the US National Basketball Association finals.
And the 2017 Dota 2, a popular online multi-player game, featured a prize pool of more than €20m, whereas the 2017 Masters Tournament operated a collective pot of €9m.
In terms of demographics, the average Major League Baseball viewer is 57 years old, whereas the average
eSports viewer is 25.
Shinggo Lu, chief executive of U Git Gud, a business dedicated to helping streamers improve their play, says: “When I talk to traditional business people about what I do, they have trouble grasping that people are getting paid to play video games and that spectators pay to watch them.
“In the greater business world, it is becoming common knowledge that eSports is booming.”
Witness the case of Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins, a 26-year-old Twitch streamer, who plays the popular game, Fortnite, and who makes €420,000 a month operating from his bedroom.
In another measure of how established eSports is becoming, the 2024 Paris Olympics is in talks to include gaming as a demonstration sport.