Esports competitions, a multimillion-dollar industry

Credit: Bryan Bedder

Credit: Bryan Bedder

Competitors flew in from all over the country. The start of the “Madden 19” season kicked off over the weekend with sanctioned electronic sports competitions being held at four locations.

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Winners are not just looking for bragging rights. The overall tournament, which has various rounds throughout its competitive season, has a $1.2 million prize pool.

Eli Clayton and Taylor Robertson, two talented players who enjoyed success in the tournaments, were gunned down at the “Madden 19” tournament in Jacksonville while it was streaming live.

Clayton, 22, known in gaming circles as "True" and "Trueboy," had won $51,000 in prizes according to his EA Sports profile. Robertson, known in the gaming world as "SpotMePlzzz," won $80,500 in prizes, his EA Sports profile says.

The popular and perennial video game is just part of the multimillion-dollar competitive gaming market with events being aired online and broadcast to millions of viewers around the world.

And it’s not just “Madden.” There are competitions for “Call of Duty,” “League of Legends,” “Warcraft” and many other games.

For the last few years, ESPN has sporadically covered various electronic sports competitions on its various platforms, including broadcast, print and online.

"At the end of the day, it's cool, it's intense, the competition is crazy, it has million-dollar performers, it has high stakes, it has owners who are trying to steal team members from different teams, (and) it has everything that makes sports interesting to cover," Chad Millman, ESPN The Magazine editor, told Time in 2016. "And it has an audience."

The audience has continued to grow. Thousands of people pack arenas to watch the major events live, with millions more watching the streams online.

Twitch, an online broadcaster with millions of users, streams competitions of myriad games, including "League of Legends," "Dota 2" and "Counterstrike: Global Offensive." Gaming is one of YouTube's most highly subscribed to channels and with millions of users watching.

More traditional broadcaster, ESPN has aired esports on its college streaming channels and on various channels for years.

The network inked a multiyear deal for an unspecified amount with Blizzard Entertainment, which oversees the Overwatch league, to broadcast competitions online and broadcast on various channels.

The games, which feature teams representing cities including Boston, New York, Shanghai and Seoul, are played in the “Blizzard Arena,” a stage set that was formerly the home of “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson in Burbank, California.

In July, ESPN aired a major Overwatch championship event during prime time, a broadcast first.

"ESPN is invested in the growth of the NBA and now we hope they are invested in the growth of our league," Pete Vlastelica, president and CEO of Activision Blizzard esports leagues, told ESPN. "That's what makes it a significant moment."

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