Esports has transcended the stigma of being viewed as just “watching people play video games,” and companies are taking notice of the numerous branding and sponsorship opportunities. But where did it all begin?
The trail goes back further than you might think. Newsweek looks at Blizzard, a game developer based in Orange County, CA. The start of Blizzard in the early 1990s coincided with the influx of high-speed broadband in South Korea, as the government there invested heavily in telecom.
Internet cafes open 24/7—called “PC Bangs”—popped up all over the country, becoming hubs for gamers, many who religiously played Blizzard’s StarCraft. Top players became celebs and half of the copies of StarCraft purchased—more than 4.5 million—were sold in South Korea.
Today, of course, the stakes are much bigger. Last month, the finals in a major tournament for another Blizzard game, Overwatch, sold out the Barclays Center and were shown on ESPN and Disney XD.
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Jon Spector, director of franchises and competition with the Overwatch League, told TheNextWeb.com that the power of esports is now becoming on par with established organizations such as Major League Baseball.
“There’s more than 40 million people around the world who play Overwatch, and there’s just north of 100 — I think 120 players who have made it to the top of the world to compete in Overwatch League,” Spector said. “You’ve got the same ingredients you have with any sport. I grew up playing Little League baseball and wanting to be Derek Jeter. I think you’ve got the same sort of phenomenon now where millions of people who love Overwatch and want to see who’s the best in the world and learn from them aspire to that.”
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