The rise of eSports
Golden Age of Gaming
There might never be a better time to play video games. Previously regimented to back rooms, basements and LAN (local area network) parties, in just the last few years, professional gamers have seen paydays skyrocket to six-figure salaries, tournaments sell out both in American arenas and overseas stadiums -- and there are even college gaming scholarships being offered at Robert Morris University outside of Chicago. So in this rapidly developing virtual world, what's on the horizon? Here's a look at some recent developments in gaming that could lay the groundwork for the future of eSports.
A gamer uses the virtual reality head-mounted display Oculus Rift to play a game during International Games Week last month in Paris, France. The display transfers eye movements to the game in real time. Oculus Rift was purchased by Facebook for $2 billion before the VR company had developed a consumer model. Big companies are making big bets on the future of gaming.
A sold-out audience fill the seats of KeyArena for The International Dota 2 Championships in July in Seattle, Washington. "Dota 2," a free-to-play team strategy game, used millions of micropayments to fund a $10.2 million prize pool for the tournament -- a bigger purse than the 2014 PGA Championship.
Major League Gaming
A capacity crowd watches Seth "Scumpii" Abner, member of Team OpTic, play "Call of Duty" at the 2014 Major League Gaming Championship in June in Anaheim, California. More than 18,000 fans watched three days of video game tournaments such as "COD," "Super Smash Brothers" and "StarCraft." Many fans also participated via play-in tournaments. In all, more than 1,000 video game players competed for money and prizes.
Video Game Scholarships
Robert Morris University students play the video game "League of Legends" with their collegiate teammates at their on-campus training facility in Chicago. The small private university is offering hefty scholarships for players of "League of Legends," which has become one of the most popular games for organized team competitions nationwide.
League Of Legends -- Staples Center
Fans watch the opening ceremony at the League of Legends Season 3 World Championship final between South Korea's SK Telecom T1 and China's Royal Club in October 2013 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The event sold out in less than a day. While video game tournaments have been sellouts in other countries, most notably South Korea, the Staples Center event last year brought professional gaming more into the American mainstream.
MLG at X Games
Competitive "Call of Duty" gamer Matthew "Nadeshot" Haag makes his way to the Major League Gaming tent at the Circuit of the Americas for the final day of competition in June, 2014. X Games brought Major League Gaming into its festival in Austin, and fans filled the tent to capacity early each day. MLG will return to X Games in Aspen this January, where teams will face off to play the first-person shooter "Counter-Strike."
Teresa Price (left) and Steel Springer (right), dressed as hunter characters from the video game "Destiny," wait in line to meet hosts of online gaming programs on the Twitch video game community in August at the Penny Arcade Expo, a fan-centric celebration of gaming in Seattle. Amazon bought Twitch for nearly $1 billion in August, hoping to leverage a dedicated and robust video game community of over 55 million registered users. The YouTube of video games claims its users watch video game streams for over 100 minutes per day on average.
Counter-Strike LAN Party
Participants of a LAN (local area network) party in Berlin play the computer game "Counter-Strike" in 2010. In just four years, professional video gamers went from backroom LAN parties to playing in front of sold-out audiences, marking an explosive growth in gaming worldwide. A LAN party is usually a weekend event where a group of people play multiplayer computer games.
Choi "Bomber" Ji Sung raises the championship trophy after defeating Choi "PoLt" Seong Hun, both of South Korea, to win the Red Bull Battlegrounds "StarCraft II" video game tournament in Atlanta last summer. Professional gamers and amateurs from the U.S., Canada, China, South Korea and Australia competed in the three-day tournament of the science-fiction strategy video game "StarCraft II." The contestants wear special noise-canceling headphones while spectators cheer in a live arena as announcers provide the play-by-play. Sung won the 128-player bracket and the $8,000 prize purse in advancing to the Battlegrounds Grand Final.
Red Bull eSports
"Starcraft" player PartinG (left) competes head-to-head with a fellow gamer in the climate-controlled booth at Red Bull LAN in Orlando, Florida. Red Bull started sponsoring eSports professional gamers a few years ago and has continued its investment in gaming, hosting tournaments around the world. They recently sent some of their sponsored gamers to Venice Beach, California, for brain mapping and a monthlong physical training program to help them improve reaction time and improve teamwork during competition.
Major League Gaming Arena
In October, Major League Gaming unveiled America's first dedicated gaming arena outside of Columbus, Ohio. A much larger MLG facility is in the works outside of Shanghai, China, as well. The arena has infrastructure for gamers and fans to compete against each other, and broadcast-quality streaming for its popular website MLG.tv. Just a few years ago, gamers were holding tournaments in convention halls; now they are selling out arenas.
Thousands of people gather outside the Anaheim Convention Center to attend BlizzCon, the fan-centric celebration of video game publisher Blizzard, in Anaheim, California, earlier this month. The annual convention kicked off Nov. 7 with more than 25,000 attendees.
An example of what an Augmented Reality app video game would look like as it's played with the Epson Moverio BT-200 Smart Glasses is displayed on a tablet from Brooklyn Bridge Park last month in New York. Players can use their natural surroundings as the backdrop for the game, with the game's graphics displayed through the glasses instead of on a screen. Programmers, innovators and big businesses are investing in new technology, hoping to be the next big thing in gaming. Billions are at stake.