Move over politics, there’s a new game in town and it’s called ESports. In a hyper-competitive city like Washington D.C., residents took a break from the rough-and-tumble world of policymaking and filled a large auditorium downtown to learn more about the competitive aspect and monetary value of this rising video gaming sport.
ESports is the future, said Mark Ein, founder and chief executive officer of Venturehouse Group, a venture capital firm that specializes in investing in technology. Ein added that some may think it’s absurd to watch others play video games, but it’s basically the same thing as watching golf or poker as a spectator. And in a town like Washington with so many young people, ESports is it. “There’s this entire world of under 30,” Ein said. “This is what they’re doing and this is where they are. This is how they’re spending their time. It’s like you lift a trap door in a world you’re living in and under it, there’s just hundreds of millions of people, totally immersed in this.”
Ein’s firm recently acquired the local ESports team, Washington Justice, and sees a bright future for ESports in general. Ein compared it to when the internet first came into common use. “That’s where ESports is now if you compare the size of the ESports viewing audiences with the monetization of it, both sponsorships and ticket sales,” he said. “It’s a really small fraction when you compare it to the other leagues and that’s because it’s new, and to me it’s just inevitable that over time, as we continue to deliver these big audiences, the economics will flow.”
ESports is a big moneymaker, with estimated revenues of more than $1 billion a year and growing. The city is betting big on it, with last year’s opening of the Entertainment and Sports Arena, a 4,200 seat venue built for $65 million in a lower-income area of Washington that previously had trouble attracting businesses and amenities. The arena is home to the local women’s professional basketball team. It also holds concerts and an increasing number of ESports activities.
“For us, what better way to do it than the hottest growing market out there right now in ESports,” said Gregory O’Dell, president and CEO of Events DC, the city’s convention and sports agency. “So we saw that this was something certainly growing faster than all the mainstream sports combined and it’s very much a market segment that we want to pursue.”
Ein envisions ESports in the city being covered just like the local professional teams. He believes Washington will become the ESports hub because of its unique combination of professional hyper-competitiveness and video-gaming enthusiasm.
“If the results of our competitions are in the Washington Post and on the news channels … that matters.” he said. “It’ll turn from just entertainment to actual sports.”