Just a few years ago esports was still a relatively niche sport. It was becoming more popular but if you had spoken to a hundred people it would have been surprising if many people could have named you a single player, developer or even a common esports game.
FIFA perhaps owing to the fact it is a sports game but in general it was not something on many people’s radar. It was not something that was covered in the mainstream media or talked about outside a hardcore group of fans nevermind on TV channels like Sky Sports.
This has totally changed, esports is now one of the fasting growing sports with endorsement deals for top players, huge followings for the top teams, fans filling arenas to watch a glimpse of the action and there are even world cups. Nothing shows how far it has come more than the fact you can now bet on esports. Every single ‘real’ sport has betting markets and now esport is no different. If you think of boxing, football, basketball and baseball you can bet on all of them and now you can bet on esports just like any other major sport. There is betting on CS:GO, FIFA betting, overwatch betting and more. The fact that people know enough about esports to bet on it and bookmakers consider it important and popular enough to offer markets on is a real stamp of approval for the sport.
Another sign that the sport is getting bigger and bigger is the fact that developers are starting to create purpose built arenas specially for fans to come and watch the best players compete head to head. While esports events have been able to pack out halls and stadiums with ease, it's not quite the same as having arenas specially built for the sport. Manchester United for example don’t play in a rugby stadium, even if they could, real sports have their own stadiums and now esports are catching up. Overwatch’s developer Blizzard have raced ahead of the competition and have opened two stadiums with one in Taipei and one in Los Angeles.
Their LA Venue was opened in late 2017 and looks set to revolutionise the way fans watch Overwatch and other esports matches as well as giving the players special facilities to take esports to the next level. For something like esports which relies so much on high quality cutting edge technology, having a stadium that caters to and is built purely for the players makes such a difference. Their LA arena features soundstages, practice rooms and even enough control rooms and player’s lounges that they could run multiple events at one time. Esports has come a very long way.
Blizzard have already scheduled a number of events to be hosted at the venue this year with fans eagerly anticipating the chance to visit a purpose built arena. The stadium looks set to establish LA as the hub of the North American esports market and increase the influence of the United States in the quest to profit from esports.
Blizzard decided to build their own arena for a number of reasons, one of them is because the arena is located right night to their studio and therefore they can have full control over it. If they want to plan events they can have access to the venue for months. Right now, if they want to host it at, say Madison Square Gardens, they get just days to fit out the venue for their thousands of fans. With their own arena they can control everything to the last detail making it very easy to host world class tournaments for both players and fans.
The venue will host the Heroes of the Golden storm Global Championship finals, the World of Warcraft Arena finals and the Hearthstone Championship Tour Summer Championship. There will be an on site store for fans to grab any merchandise or games they desire during events and it will be the home of the inaugural Overwatch league which aims to take Overwatch into a new stratosphere. Blizzard clearly feel they can dominate and control the esports market and this arena is just the first of many steps.