Forget football, cricket and athletics, the world’s fastest-growing sport is live video gaming. Esports, which stands for electronic sports, sees professional game-players compete in matches and worldwide tournaments online, and often in stadiums and arenas full of thousands of screaming fans.
In early September, the Daily Mail recognised the building momentum around it, launching a dedicated Esports section of the publisher’s sport coverage online.
Jack Stewart, a 21-year-old graduate of the University of Brighton was snapped up by the Mail, becoming the first full-time esports journalist working for a British newspaper.
"People have always competed in video games, but with technology it's now easier than ever for people to play each other online – the esports industry is growing so quickly," he said, speaking to Journalism.co.uk for a recent podcast.
"It's also easier for people to watch each other online. For example, TwitchTV lets people livestream video games and tournaments to millions of people online – people like watching other people play video games, it's very popular."
Computer games, such as League of Legends, FIFA or Counter-Strike, are played for money and prizes, reaching an audience of 385 million this year. Further data from Newzoo, the esports data expert, reveals that the revenue from esports is expected to rise from £100m in 2012 to £365m this year.
"I'm similar to a regular sports journalist in the fact that I talk to players and teams, although match reports don't tend to do quite as well, as it's online and people watch it on-demand and have seen it themselves.
"A lot of my work is reporting news and developments within the industry, going to events and interviewing professional gamers for features and latest news."
Just like traditional sports, there are star players, who compete in professional leagues and tournaments, and can earn upwards of £1m a year, and that’s not including sponsorship or bonuses.
"Some people call them athletes, some call them gamers – it's quite debatable," he said.
Stewart explained that the future of esports journalism looks bright, believing that other news organisations will follow in the Mail’s footsteps, hiring journalists to specifically report on it.
"The main challenge for me now is getting the Daily Mail's core audience, who don't know a lot about esports, to like it, while also informing the standard esports audience to look at the Daily Mail and come to us instead of others," he said.
"I think every publisher will have to cover it in the future as it's going to get massive – there is a huge core audience which is growing, almost every kid now watches esports online.
"The League of Nations world championship had over 40 million people watch it online, and I don't think any publisher can say no to that kind of audience."
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