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Esports Ecosystems on the Rise

Gaming has surpassed niche status and has become a major player in business.

A fan cheering at esports tournament
Photo by: Saint Louis Science Center

You might be in the camp who thinks #gaming is for nerdy, geeky people sitting alone in their parent's basement. You might be right in the sense of that's mainly how the industry started.

I remember exactly when I fell in love with gaming. It was 1987 and my dad had told us the entire year that if we brought home straight A's, did chores and saved some money, he'd buy us the new (original) Nintendo. We definitely kept track of our grades and did as many chores as possible for a 5 and 8 year old. As December rolled around, we could hardly wait. Christmas Day had finally come, and there it was – a large, rectangular box we knew could only be a doorway to a higher level of enlightenment; it was the #Nintendo we were waiting for. As we savagely opened the box, we couldn't wait to pop in the latest game – Super Mario Brothers. We both would take turns playing for hours on end, well into the evening time. Super Mario Bros. gave way to our next infatuation – The Legend of Zelda. That led to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Kid Icarus, River City Ransom, Ninja Gaiden, Excite Bike, Tennis, Ice Hockey and Duck Hunt all followed. If you grew up with this system, you know how revered these games were.

Super Mario Bros. cartridge
Photo by: Nintendo
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles NES
Photo by: Nintendo
Excite Bike game play
Photo by: Nintendo

And yeah, I'll admit, we did play video games in the catacombs of a mostly brown, wood siding, shag carpeted house. Maybe that was the precursor to the "gamer stereotype" of nerdy dudes sitting alone in the basement, but we didn't care. The gaming culture was now part of our DNA.

World of Warcraft raid
Photo by: Steven Strom /ARS Technica
Counter-Strike Dust Map
Photo by: IGN
Everquest Clan Bow
Photo by: Chuck Lee

Fast forward a few years and games like Diablo, Subspace, Starcraft, Everquest and World of Warcraft started to dominate the gaming scene. During college, Counter-Strike, Gran Turismo and FIFA were definitely part of the gaming menu.

This is why it's not surprising to see more countries embrace the gaming platform as an extremely viable source of revenue. Why be boring and sell the "greatness" of the oil and gas industry to young professionals when you can entice them with League of Legends tournaments? Now, we may not all be a professional gamer, but the ecosystem of gaming provides many people some serious opportunities to make a good living.

France, for example, has shown strong commitment to #esports. In February 2023, multiple branches of the French government presented a "national esport strategy, with hopes to attract more major events and support players at both the professional and amateur level over the next three years" first reported by James Fudge of The Esports Advocate.

They're so committed to gaming that they announced their commitment to creating a national esports ecosystem and building out major events associated with the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. That's quite monumental, if you ask me. Can you think of any other country that's putting serious muscle behind gaming like this? Not even the US has this level of commitment yet. We're still here twiddling our thumbs trying to get people to pay to watch us play on Twitch and YouTube, let alone creating a cohesive ecosystem for esports.

We're no longer in "nerdy" territory when it comes to games – it is now a full-fledged strategy to mold and attract talent, create national revenue and provide serious branding opportunities. Just look at what Faze Clan and XSET are doing by embracing the culture, producing content and collaborating as much as possible. Big name tournaments for League of Legends, Overwatch and Valorant are highly sought after for brands to infiltrate. Ok yes, the #metaverse might be flailing at the moment, but when it comes to gaming tournaments like we mentioned above, a serious argument can be made that it is more popular than regular sports. Which, as we know, is a marketing and revenue cash cow.

We must now ask ourselves this question: are we going to embrace all aspects of the esports ecosystem? Are we going to accept adult-related products like alcohol as a sponsor for an 18 and under tournament? Are we going to turn a blind eye to criticism when more violent games such as Call of Duty are highlighted? The answer is, I don't know. But knowing that we've moved beyond from being known as a "niche" industry, you can bet your ass everyone from the government to professional gamers will be looking under every nook and cranny to see how this industry can be exploited.

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