eSports Popularity Breaking into Mainstream in North America

Written by: Kimberly Rowell

The word ‘eSports’ has been gaining momentum in North America over the past few years and that momentum is showing no sign of slowing down. In its raw definition, eSports is a genre of video games that are played at a professional level, usually in competitions or championships. Many eSports games are played on the PC with professional gaming teams battling it out in competitions to win large prize pools.

Popular in eastern countries for some time now, eSports first gained traction with the popular sci-fi real-time strategy game, StarCraft, which launched in 1998. It’s not uncommon to visit Asian countries now and to see large posters of celebrated video game players decorating tall buildings and movie theaters, similar to how traditional sports stars may appear in North America. And, in North America eSports are popular and growing, but still comparatively new.

It could be argued that eSports have had a significant hand in the rise of and now extreme popularity of PC free-to-play games, an area of particular interest to BlueSnap and its gaming clients. This is evidenced by looking at North American based Riot’s mega-hit, League of Legends. The game currently holds some of the most widely-viewed competitions with 32.5 million players in 2012 and over 70 million in 2013 (see infographic below), an increase of over 115% in a single year. The 13,000 tickets that were sold for the 2013 championships were sold out in less than an hour.

Given League of Legends’ success, we can begin to understand why many other studios and publishers are going after a piece of the eSports pie. A focus has been placed upon the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) style of games, and top-name developers are starting to jump on the concept more frequently. One example is BlueSnap’s Massachusetts neighbor, Turbine (part of Warner Bros.), which is currently developing the DC Comics focused MOBA, Infinite Crisis.

As most eSports games are played on PCs and often times through browsers with microtransactions driving revenue for these companies, BlueSnap is keeping a close eye on the world of eSports and the developers that are involved in the space. Our smarter payment gateway offers robust cross-border payment options, so that developers can tap into the eSports opportunity already existent in Asia, while North American interest continues to grows. We see BlueSnap’s global payment services as the secret sauce for success for eSports game developers!