Last Sunday, ESPN tried to integrate eSports into its lineup. On ESPN 2, two hours of Blizzard’s Heroes of the Dorm event, a tournament for the Heroes of the Storm MOBA, were aired on ESPN 2. The championship round was broadcast in primetime, running alongside the NBA playoffs and Major League Baseball.
The reaction was mixed. Gamers, of course, regarded the event rather positively, happy that eSports were getting the recognition that normal sports were. The rest of the world, however, ranged from saying they kind of want to try out the game and that the excitement was so interesting that they couldn’t turn it off, to calling gamers aliens, calling ESPN 2 desperate, and generally being negative about the entire eSports scene.
But no one has been more negative than ESPN themselves. ESPN president, John Skipper had already come out against eSport, saying that it doesn’t count as a “real sport,” but rather a competition like chess or checkers. He further said that ESPN was only interested in “real sports.”
Colin Cowherd, host of ESPN morning radio show The Herd, also had some harsh things to say about gamers. “If ESPN ever forced me to cover that, or do play-by-play, I would quit,” Cowherd said. “Somebody lock the basement door at mom’s house, and don’t let ’em out,” he added, referencing the players. “I will quit this network if I am every asked to cover that.” He later equated the experience of watching ESPN’s eSports broadcast to putting a gun in his mouth.
Even with ESPN’s harsh words, eSports is a rapidly growing industry. Amazon recently purchased Twitch.TV for the hefty sum of one billion dollars. ESPN themselves streamed the DOTA 2 world championship tournament, which had a prize pool of ten million dollars. Not only that, but the United States government officially recognizes eAtheletes as professional athletes. According to IHS technology, 2.4 billion hours of eSports were viewed in 2013 and come 2018, the industry will be worth three hundred million dollars annually. Aside from that, Twitch streamed pro gaming events continuously break Twitch records time and time again. It’s hard to deny that eSports are something that appeals to a lot of people, even if it’s not the mainstream.
What do you think? Is there a future for eSports as a professional sport? Can gamers exist alongside professional athletes? Were ESPN’s comments too harsh or unprofessional? Let us know what you think in the comments.