The origin of video games starts in 1952 in Cambridge, when Alexander Douglas created OXO as part of his research on human-machine interaction. This Tic-Tac-Toe OXO is considered to be the first video game in history, and was working on the EDSAC (primitive computer with cathode ray tubes integrating a memory). The first tournament was held in 1981: it was the Space Invaders contest that gathered 10.000 participants in the USA! The 80’s saw the advent of these e-sport tournaments, newspapers even depicted players like stars!
In the 90’s, many games benefited from the increase in Internet connectivity. The first online E-Sport game is a strategy game called Netrek. It is the third online game, and the first one to allow team players on public servers. The same year saw the first edition of the “Nintendo World Championships” on Mario Bros, Rad Racer and Tetris. Winners won 10.000$, a Geo Metro Convertible car, a TV and a golden Mario trophy. The cash prize was born, the revolution had begun!
After Internet’s democratization in 1997, E-sport mushroomed. The Red Annihilation tournament on Quake in the US offers the winner a 328 GTS Ferrari. Then appeared professional and semi-professional leagues like the “Cyberathlete Professional League” and the “Electronic Sports League”.
On the 31st March 1998, Starcraft comes out… And creates a buzz around e-sports in South Korea, where a professional league emerges. These are the foundations of today’s tournaments around the world. In 2000, the “Korean E-Sports Players Association” (KESPA) is officially recognized as a national sport. On the same year, the “World Cyber Games Challenge” takes place in Seoul on several games: Starcraft Brood War, Quake 3, Age of Empires 2 and Fifa 2000. Cash prizes are valued at 200.000$.
In 2002, the USA founded the professional “Major League Gaming”. The MLG is one of the biggest e-sports associations and hosts the biggest tournaments in the world. The next year, the fist professional Starcraft league begins. Companies like AMQ, Samsung and Korean Telecom Freetel register their own teams. On the same year appears the “Electronic Sports World Cup” that settles with Counter Strike, Counter Strike Female, Warcraft 3, Unreal Tournament and Quake 3. In 2004, the first transfer in the western world is made: Norwegian Counter Strike player “elemeNt” is transferred. Europe is also impacted by the E-Sport phenomenon.
In 2013, USA’s government recognizes professional League of Legend players as professional athletes, and the LOL tournaments as sport. In 2015, Koreans recognize E-Sport as a level 2 Olympic sport, at the same level as chess or automobile.
With the adoption of the draft bill for a Numerical Republic on the 3rd May 2016, the State recognizes the status of professional players: the E-Sport French Federation is born. For long, law has associated this discipline to hazard games because of the amount of cash prizes. But in May 2016, the draft bill will clarify and regulate the practice. The draft bill tackles three main points:
Legalization of physical competitions: until that competitions were associated to the lotteries regime, and were therefore forbidden.
Competitions are better framed to guarantee minors protection. Cash prizes are blocked until they become adults.
Professional players will have their own social status. This disposition allows the constitution of professional teams in France, and reinforces the attractiveness of the sector.
On top of that, and thanks to the major E-Sport actor in France (France E-Sport) and its collaboration with the government, a new decree will come out on the 1st of July 2017 to encourage the evolution of this activity in France.
For now, the France E-Sport association is still discussing with the Government regarding:
- The essential terms of employment contracts for professional players
- How to regulate tournaments
- The broadcast on TV of competitions in similar conditions as traditional sports
- The registration of this discipline in sport’s history
- The creation of a platform gathering all stakeholders of the sector, so it becomes fair and sustainable.
The provisional revenue for the European E-Sport market in 2018 is 345M€! France is at the third place (behind Switzerland and Sweden) of countries generating the biggest revenue. In 2016, the sector generated 20.621.754€ with a prevision 22.624.915€ in 2018, which is a 10% evolution!
Beyond competition in itself, it’s the notion of show that explains the practice’s success in France. Because watching E-Sport is also practicing it! In 2017, the audience was 1.6 millions of viewers with a prevision of almost 2 million viewers for 2018, equal a 25% evolution.
Physical tournaments also bring more and more spectators. Let’s take the Gamers Assembly 2017 who beat its own records of influence with 21.100 physical spectators, and more than 16.000 online viewers during the Heartstone finale.
Many actors want to be a part of this boom: some companies and football clubs create their own teams (such as PDG of SNCF). The FDJ also created its own E-Sport league, planning regular online tournaments. PMU e-Sport also specializes in the collecting of data and statistics.
In Europe, 62% of players are “millenials” born between 1980 and 2000. Even if the Z generation (born after 2000) isn’t old enough yet, she is the emerging force of e-sports. This generation forms 20% of players and spectators already!
France still has a long way to go before competing with giants of the E-Sports culture such as eastern Asia and Russia. But all the indicators are green for this discipline to quickly develop in the few years to come…!