Esports: Learning to Walk Before Running

The rise and fall of the esports hype cycle

In the world of sports, trends come and go. From pedestrianism to esports, the landscape is constantly evolving, leaving fans and skeptics alike wondering what the next big thing will be. Esports, the competitive gaming phenomenon, experienced a meteoric rise in popularity over the past decade. However, recent developments have signaled a market correction, leading to what some have dubbed the “esports winter.” Traditional sports teams and owners, once enthusiastic investors in the industry, have started to retreat. But what led to this downturn, and what does the future hold for esports?

The Decline of Traditional Sports Investments:

Last week, Riot Games, the creator of League of Legends, announced that its North American league would be reducing the number of teams from 10 to 8 for the 2024 season. This decision resulted in the departure of Golden Guardians and Evil Geniuses, marking another setback for traditional sports teams and owners in the esports realm. Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE) reportedly laid off a majority of its esports division in February, while MSG relinquished majority control of its League of Legends team in April. The once-promising partnership between traditional sports and esports seems to be fading.

The Challenge of Compelling Content

One of the main reasons for esports’ failure to meet expectations is the lack of compelling content for a mainstream audience. The fast-paced action and complex gameplay mechanics of many esports titles make it difficult for newcomers to understand and appreciate the competition. Unlike traditional sports, where casual viewers can enjoy the spectacle without in-depth knowledge of the game, esports often require a foundational understanding to fully appreciate the competition. This limited the potential for esports to attract new fans and grow beyond its core audience of existing players.

Shifting Investment Priorities:

Another factor contributing to the current state of esports is a shift in investment priorities. Video game publishers primarily viewed esports as a means to engage and retain existing players rather than a tool for acquiring new ones. This strategy, while effective in fostering player loyalty, hindered the growth of esports as a mainstream phenomenon. Additionally, recent changes in the investing landscape, favoring immediate profits over long-term potential, have limited the ability of esports leagues to develop their own unique cultures and followings.

The Future of Esports:

While the hype surrounding esports may have subsided, the industry is far from dead. Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard for $69 billion demonstrates the enduring value of video games. Streaming platforms like Twitch continue to attract millions of viewers, and competitive gaming remains immensely popular in Asia. Traditional sports owners, such as Jerry Jones, have also shown commitment to the esports space. To bridge the gap between esports and traditional sports, organizers need to embrace the unique qualities of video games, offering fans more control over the action and fostering global connections. Developing engaging narratives and personalities within the esports ecosystem will be crucial to attracting and retaining fans.


The esports revolution may have hit a bump in the road, but the industry’s potential remains undeniable. Esports needs to take a step back, focus on grassroots growth, and learn from the development of traditional sports. By embracing what makes video games unique and cultivating engaging narratives, esports can forge its own path to success. The road ahead may be challenging, but with the right approach, esports can learn to walk before it runs, ultimately establishing a lasting fanbase and securing its place in the world of sports.






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