Both Esports and online poker have become massive phenomena, which should come as no surprise if you look at how our world has evolved. Gone are the days when esports were only just friendly competitive sports played by students in dorms, or the days when it was difficult to obtain funds to play online poker. Now both games have huge audiences and fans all over the world.
Today, both are multibillion-dollar industries, with esports such as League of Legends grossing $1.5 billion in 2019 and the Stars Groups in poker earning almost $4 million daily in revenue. It would be reasonable to predict that both will keep flourishing in the next few years as well. A brief analysis of how these games compare can quickly reveal the reasons for this – let’s jump right into it.
Massive Audience Appeal
The world’s first esports tournament was held in 1997 in an FPS game called Quake. This event only had about 2000 participants. Fast-forward to 2012, this number has grown by heaps and bounds, with viewership alone jumping to 134 million for all esports (this figure includes 58 million active gamers). By 2018, the number of viewers increased to 395 million, among which 173 million persons were active players themselves.
Because online poker faces many legislative restrictions in various countries and states, the number of active players is not a true reflection of what it could be. Even with these regulations, the online poker industry had about 100 million players in 2019, with the US contributing around 60% of these players. These numbers indicate a massive growth of interest in online gaming activities where you can compete against fellow players. In their most recent review of the online poker industry, Beasts of Poker estimates over 300 new poker accounts are opened every hour.
Youngsters Are Their Primary Demographic
Leading esports such as Counter-Strike, Dota 2, League of Legends, and Fortnite are primarily played by Gen Z and young millennials. While they have no age restrictions, the majority of its participants and viewers are aged between 18 and 34 years.
Online poker players have age regulations in all countries. In many cases, players have to be at least 18 years or 21 years of age. Regulations make its age demographic slightly older than that of esports. However, both have young user engagements because they are digital, highly interactive, and can be played by anyone of legal age anywhere in the world.
This gives them an edge over traditional sports. They can be live-streamed across several platforms such as Twitch, YouTube, and Mixer. Let’s not forget these youngsters are future decision-makers in our society – their burgeoning interest in games will set the trend for other generations to come.
Huge Annual Prize Pools
There are few other industries as fast-rising as esports. It is gaining massive support from Fortune 500 companies, and every year the prize pools seem to break new records. Its winners become instant millionaires overnight. A few honorary mentions in 2019 include $64.4 million prize money from Fortnite, $46.7 million from Dota 2, and $21 million from CS:GO.
Companies such as Red Bull, Comcast Xfinity, Intel, and Honda also get a slice of the pie by offering top players lucrative brand endorsements and sponsorships. In return, their brands are seen by hundreds of millions of fans. EDward Gaming, a top-ranking League of Legends team, got a sponsorship deal with Gillette. Top players are awarded training facilities and resources that ensure they have the best chance to win the mega competitions.
Similarly, online poker also has tournaments with large fields of runners. A few notable mentions would be the World Championship of Online Poker, Spring Championship of Online Poker, and MicroMillions. In 2019 alone, record-breaking amounts of $104.7 million, $160 million, and $4.3 million respectively were paid out in these flagship events.
Wide Media Coverage
Esport tournaments now have increased media coverage with huge networks such as BBC and Sky Sports airing the games with professional commentators. Not too long ago, BBC covered the League of Legends matches in UKLC held at the Twickenham Stadium. The competition featured eight teams, and the media coverage spanned seven weeks. Hundreds of millions of viewers tuned in to watch, making professional gamers instant celebrities. In comparison, online poker events are streamed mostly on niche platforms and do not garner mainstream media coverage.
Potential Stumbling Blocks
Now that we have compared the highs of these competitive sports, it is time to compare their lows. Both activities require high levels of concentration and dedication. Esport tournaments could last for several hours, with competitors glued at their computer screens, pressing away on their keyboards, and using a mouse in a coordinated effort. Playing esports requires a tremendous ability to focus 100% and perform under pressure.
If we talk about esport’s demographics, the players are mostly teenagers and young adults who could easily burnout with their high passions towards the game. The rigor and surmounting pressure of esports can sometimes contribute to increased levels of anxiety and depression, especially if you can’t meet the game’s demands. While the games are open to everyone, competing professionally is a tough full-time job that only a few can handle. Same can be said of online poker.
What about the cost of gear for esports and poker? Gaming chairs, for example, cost as much as $1600. A proper PC setup can go into several thousand dollars. Many teenagers and young adults have no disposable income like their millennial counterparts, and it could become challenging to join without support from a sidekick.
Online poker is much different from offline poker because you are unable to interact physically with participants. This makes it increasingly difficult to call their bluff, and it requires a great deal of concentration to make winning moves. Since its demographic consists of millennials, they have the disposable income to spend on the competitions.
As a final comparison, esports are more readily accepted in society than online poker. Both games have a massive following, yet online poker does not have as much support because it remains a topic of controversy. While both could be considered sports, online poker’s perception as gambling taints its progress to some degree. This is a shame as it is a lucrative industry to tap into because countries could amass millions in taxes from this niche alone. However, we’re seeing more and more US states regulating online poker, which is always a good thing for the game’s long-term popularity. Time will tell how these games fare against each other for the years to come.