eSports has been one of the most remarkable phenomena of recent years. From being virtually unknown a decade ago today the industry is estimated to be worth over $590 million with a global audience of 300 million.
With these kinds of figures it’s no surprise that it has become quickly professionalised with teams competing for a share in the huge prizes on offer in the many competitions held round the world each year.
Poker, on the other hand, has been possibly the world’s most popular card game for many years played in virtually every country and with a history of being televised going back several decades. It too has seen an upsurge in popularity thanks, in no small part, to both the emergence of online casinos and the tips and support that they give to players.
The game’s online popularity has also started to translate into increased numbers playing the game in the real world as demonstrated by the record numbers of people who travelled to Las Vegas in 2016 to participate in the World Series of Poker.
The presence of actual tournaments like the WSOP represents a significant difference between poker and eSports. Whereas the former offer a combination of live and televised action eSports only has an online audience.
However this needs to be more closely examined if we’re trying to compare the two. It’s estimated that 100 million people watch the top four poker tournaments on TV with under a million tuning in online. For eSports the TV viewing figures are a comparatively paltry 20 million but when you look at online viewers these go through the roof at more than 200 million.
Of course, what any comparison between the two really comes down to are the levels of money involved – and the prize money in particular. For eSports the biggest tournament of the year is undoubtedly The International which in 2015 had a prize pool of over $18 million dollars. Compared with the best ever year for the WSOP’s Main Event which had a prize pool of over four times this amount at over $82 million it makes eSports look distinctly small-time, although in a pretty big way.
There’s also the question of individual prize money. The winner of last November’s WSOP Main Event, Qui Nguyen, took home $8 million from just one tournament while eSports’ biggest earner to date has been Peter Dager with career earnings of just over $2.1 million – not bad for being good at video games but way behind poker’s big hitters.
So when it comes down to the final analysis poker is a clear winner in terms of the amounts of money involved but the worldwide viewing figures for eSports dwarf its rival’s. There’s also a younger age profile for followers of eSports which has to be good news for its future.
It’s also worth noting that when you combine the two biggest prize pools in eSports and poker history it amounts to nearly $101 million – nearly more than five times the combined amount of the Super Bowl and the Cricket World Cup.
With numbers like this, the future for both eSports and poker looks very good indeed.