ALEX QUEJADO WRITES — Sports are one of the most popular media-covered events in the world. But what really qualifies an event as a sport? Would video games make the cut?
If you were to mention this, say, ten years ago, you would be ridiculed. Today, however, Electronic Sports (often called eSports) have garnered impressive media attention. League of Legends, a multiplayer online battle arena video game, has become so popular that it is now in its Season 4 World Championship.
The event came to a conclusion on October 19, but had a month’s worth of momentum, starting with group stage events in both Singapore and Taiwan. Eight out of 16 international teams succeeded in the group stages: China’s Star Horn Royal Club (SHRC), Edward Gaming (EDG) and OMG; South Korea’s Samsung White (SSW), Samsung Blue (SSB) and Najin White Shield (NWS); and North America’s Team Solomid (TSM) and Cloud 9 (C9). These teams faced each other in the Quarterfinals held in Busan, South Korea. SSW, SSB, SHRC and OMG advanced to the semifinals.
The Semifinal match was held in the Olympic Gymnastic Arena in Seoul. SSW and SHRC advanced to the Finals, which took place in the Seoul World Cup (Sangnam) Stadium, selling out to approximately 40,000 attendees. Samsung White defeated Star Horn Royal Club and were crowned the Season 4 World Champions.
Last year, over 32 million people watched the Season 3 World Championship Finals worldwide. Riot Games, the company behind League of Legends, has yet to release the statistics on Season 4’s Finals viewership, but it is estimated to surpass last year’s. There are over 600 million views on Twitch.tv alone. The Finals were even aired on ESPN, despite ESPN’s president John Skipper’s comments last month regarding the nature of eSports.
Whether eSports are a legitimate sport or not sparks fervent debate, but with both the Olympic Gymnastic Arena and the Seoul World Cup Stadium selling out, as well as immense viewership numbers, there’s no doubt that the popularity of eSports is reaching levels that could eventually K.O. traditional sports.