History of Esports

It has been years since video games first showed up on our screens, and we have been fascinated and entertained by gaming ever since. This aspect of competitive gaming has remained, where players play against each other to either win or lose the game. Our focus today, however, will be on esports, defined as a competitive sporting competition of video games among professionals. These competitions are frequently watched by a mass audience.

First (Ever) Esports Tournament

In October of 1972 at Stamford University, the first eSports contest/game occurred. The video game Spacewar was played by students. Nevertheless, it was actually in 1980 when the first video game competition was held. The prize for the champion of the competition was a year-long subscription to the Rolling Stones magazine. Since Space Invaders (game of the tournament) was a household name at that time, it received a 10,000-viewer audience and broadcasting attention.


The company Twin Galaxies was a company that rose to recognition in the ’80s and promoted and broadcasted the scores and records of the competitions in books like the World records. There many companies like twin Galaxies that also followed suit and publicized recorded the highest scores of video games.


The ’90s brought about the rise of the now fundamental world wide web and the cyberspace. The internet was the catalyst for the gaming world as it connected the gamers to other competitors around the world instantly, birthing the now online gaming competitions. With the internet came the interest in PC games and this led to companies like Nintendo, sponsoring video game championships.

The ’90s was a huge era for the esports scope, as in 1997 the Red Annihilation tournament was regarded as the first eSports event ever. This event drew in roughly 2000 participants. The winner of the competition got to drive off in a Ferrari owned by John Cormack (lead developer of Quake).

Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) was created a few weeks after and held their very first tournament later that year. CPL was the leading major gaming league of its period, there were also other eminent tournaments and leagues appearing during this period as well. The esports scope was now exposed to recognition which meant that the prizes were larger and better. For example, $15,000 prize for winning a tournament by CPL.

Starcraft: Brood War was a game that set itself apart from the other games due to its real-time strategy gameplay. In contrast to the other games which relied on basic strategic thinking and delivery, instead of fast reflexes and muscle memory. The heir, Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty, while it offers fresh calculated possibilities, it continues to live up to the guidelines left by its predecessor. With over 50 million viewers and 17.5 million views on the channel Twich.tv alone (GSL) Global StarCraft 2 League from South Korea is considered the most distinguished StarCraft2 competition.

The Year of The Millenium (2000)

Large-scale international tournaments like the World Cyber Games, Electronic Sports World Cup and then the Major League Gaming (MLG) were introduced. MLG was launched in 2002 and is currently the biggest esports league to date and is also extremely generous in terms of prize money. Now there are many popular games like Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos, the rise of Defense of the Ancients (DotA) and League of Legends.


Since the 2000s esports has skyrocketed and has come a long way since its conception in the early ’80s. An example of this is from the total amount of prize money rewarded which measured up to $110.6 million won through approx. 3765 tournaments. What was the biggest prize money awarded from a single tournament? $24.6 million won in 2017 at The International.

It has been predicted that by 2020 the esports profit will hit 1.5 billion, and shows no signs of stopping. Esports has developed the same demand akin to watching athletes competing in stadiums, with regards to viewership and attendance over the years.