ESPN Bets Big On Gaming, Launches eSports Vertical

Professional gaming -- as in video games -- isn't new by any means. Fatal1ty (real name Johnathan Wendel) entered the scene way back in 1999 and pioneered the category by dominating in titles like Quake III Arena. Since then the category has only grown, albeit in the background of mainstream media. That might change as sports coverage giant ESPN launches a new esports vertical.

ESPN's esports section aims to offer comprehensive coverage in the world of competitive gaming. Like other sections of the site, it will include video, news related to the category, offseason analysis and grades, and more. It will also offer reporting from the opening weekend of the North America League of Legends Champion Series tomorrow.

ESPN esports

"Today’s launch – anchored by the influential voices of Darin Kwilinski, Rod Breslau and Tyler Erzberger – is our latest push to reach and connect with this growing and passionate audience," said Chad Millman, editor-in-chief, and ESPN The Magazine. "Fans will find the same level of quality content and journalism that users of have come to expect, including in-depth looks at the competitive gaming world and on-site reporting from the major tournaments."

One of the section's introductory articles lays out the landscape, and in doing so, it's easy to see why ESPN is getting involved. It's called "Esports is Having a Moment" and it's filled with fun facts about esports, such as that up to 200 players are making at least $40,000 in prize winnings as professional gamers these days. That's equivalent to what the 150th-ranked men's tennis player and 330th-ranked golfer in the world gross annually.

ESPN isn't alone in recognizing the business opportunity esports presents. Consider that Amazon bought gaming channel Twitch for nearly $1 billion in August 2014, Activision just recently gobbled up Major League Gaming for $46 million, and Mark Cuban invested an undisclosed sum into Fantasy Labs, an esports analytics firm. Cuban also has money invested in Unikrn, an esports wagering platform startup co-founded by Rahul Sood.
Tags:  games, espn, esports