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The rise of online gaming and what it means for the future of eSports

Caption – The popularity of the Fortnite World Cup shows just how far the eSports industry has come

Online poker is fast becoming one of the most popular pastimes, not only amongst gamers but also the non-gaming community. Average folks who would never have played a game online are now turning to the online version of poker in their droves and by all accounts, it doesn’t show any signs of letting up.

In fact, just last year the online gambling industry was worth an astonishing $55.19 billion, while this year that figure is expected to hit almost $60 billion. And if you think that’s impressive, then what about the fact that expert research predicts that it will top the $100 billion mark by 2025!

Caption – Online gambling market value is set to hit almost $60 billion in 2020   credit: statista

That’s all well and good, but how on earth does this affect the eSports industry? Well, it affects it a lot more than you might think. But before we get to that, let’s just take a quick look at what the online poker industry has that makes it so damn popular that it rivals Destiny 2’s 1 million guardians a day.

What online poker brings to the table

Back in 2003, online poker was a relatively unknown quantity, but that all changed when a man named Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker. Chris was an online poker player and the first to win big in a live tournament. His win spawned the online poker boom and the landscape changed forever.

Within a few short months there were platforms everywhere, but it took several years for regulation to be put in place and the first high-quality platforms to really take a stranglehold of the market. Fast forward to today, and we now have an industry that is both highly secure and extremely convenient which is great news for those who want to play online.

Take the major platforms for example. The likes of 888poker will not only offers players the chance to play at any time of the day, but they’ll even go so far as to provide free poker tournaments where players that don’t want to play for money can still enjoy the game.

These types of offers, along with the in-depth tutorials and guides that many providers have on their sites, make getting into online poker incredibly easy for the complete novice. And as you know well enough, anything that’s easy to get into and convenient to play will often draw in the crowds.

But there’s more to online poker than convenience and the chance to win money. For the online gaming industry in general, it’s about changing perceptions.

Introducing non-gamers to a different world

There’s no doubt that a huge percentage of online poker players started out as non-gaming players. They wanted to play poker for fun and that’s what drew them to the internet. But somewhere along the way, those very same online poker players who once thought of gamers as ‘time wasters playing video games’ changed their perception of people who spend time online.

Here was an entire segment of the non-gaming population now spending a great deal of time online playing poker. You can see where we’re going with this one, right? Unknown to themselves, they started to change the way that they perceived people who played online and, as an extension, people who played video games. After all, online poker is just another video game.

We’re not for a second suggesting that people’s attitudes to video gaming changed solely because of online poker, but you can see how it may have had a significant impact. With their perceptions changed, those who were uninterested in video games now found themselves more open to the idea of online gaming.

So what about eSports?

As you know all too well, the world of eSports is highly competitive. Succeeding in the industry requires no small amount of skill and an ability to work when under serious pressure. Sounds a lot like playing poker if we’re honest, but that’s not the link.

The fact is that people who play poker can appreciate the skill required to remain focused for long periods of time. Much like an athlete can admire the skills of an athlete who plays another sport, online poker players can appreciate the skills required to compete at the highest level in eSports.

Then there’s the competitive nature of the industry. Of late, eSports has garnered so much support that there’s now an estimated 380 million people that watch tournaments on a regular basis. And believe it or not, that figure looks set to rise to over 500 million by 2021.

Pretty impressive stats, but even more so when you take into account the number of people that actually bet on the industry. Yes, that’s right, people now bet on eSports and we’re guessing that those online poker fans who now watch eSports may be among those that do.

Currently the eSports betting market is worth an estimated $8 billion per year. Conservative predictions state that this could rise to $16 billion over the next year or two.

As viewership figures rise, the number of casual fans who want to feel a little more invested in the outcome of a tournament will rise concurrently. And when this happens, as it is already doing, we fully expect eSports to follow a similar path to live poker events becoming a spectator sport to rival traditional sports in terms of viewing figures.

Yes, we know that attributing this huge rise in the popularity of eSports to the rise of online poker may be a stretch, but we’re not stating that it is entirely responsible. But as you can see, there’s certainly no doubt that the rapid growth of online poker has had a positive effect on the eSports and video gaming industry as a whole.

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