The History of Esports

Esports have already turned into a billion dollar industry, solidifying their share both in the sports market and in the sports betting market.  In 2024 the esports industry was valued at more than 1 billion dollars, jumping up almost 50% from the previous year, while it is anticipated that it will grow to nearly 1.65 billion dollars by 2024! Esports are the love of many punters, who are driven by their passion for video gaming, who are excited by the hype of professional gamers and intrigued by the virtual competitive world in which competitions and tournaments take place. Along with the love for esports, the love for betting on esports has grown as well. In fact, betting on esports has increased exponentially the past few years, pushing online bookmakers to develop special sections to cater for the growing worldwide phenomenon as one can see at

But let’s see how it all began and how esports have become the highly popular games that they are today.

The Jacksonville incident


For many people who are not too familiar with esports, the first widespread public attention was fuelled by the shooting at the Madden NFL Tournament in Jacksonville. Although it is not proper to insinuate any link between a tragic incident and esports, it is an undeniable fact that much of the people’s initial knowledge of the games came from watching this incident on the news. What happened there? In 2017, a video gaming competition in Jacksonville ended up with two competitors being killed after being shot by a 24-year old player who had visited the place for the games. This incident brought esports to the spotlight, raising serious concerns about the role that video games play in the social lives, actions and potential deviant behaviors of gamers.

But esports are not like this, despite the fact that they became widely known from that episode. Esports are video gaming competitions, which aside from the virtual world in which players compete, they are much resembling the traditional sports. They are perfectly viable and absolutely legitimate games turning casual gamers into highly popular, star persons with millions of fans around the globe.

In the 1970s

Esports competitions have grown into full-fledged tournaments held on a regular basis, gaining much interest and attracting more and more the attention of fans. But when did it all start? The first traces of esports are to be found back in the 1970s, with the first official video game competition taking place in October 19, 1972. The video game was Spacewar and the winner of the competition would win a free subscription for the magazine that was meant to change the world – the Rolling Stone magazine! However, for the time, the prize was more than the free subscription – the real prize was getting to be named the “Intergalactic Spacewar Champion” of 1972.

In the 1980s

By the end of 1970s and the mid 1980s, video game formal tournaments, but also less formal competitions were a hype. They became mainstream, with high profile games such as the Space Invaders Championship gathering double-digit thousands of gamers and fans and bringing esports at the forefront of public attention and at the center of interest for both video game lovers and casual bettors. Because after all, video game tournaments are about playing, viewing and betting!

In the 1990s

And just like that in the rise of the 1990s, video games went from a casual hobby to an organized professional sport activity and moved from the confines of homes to the outside world. Esport players would no longer sit at their houses to engage with gaming – instead they could take part in tournaments, play against other gamers in competitions and get to experience all the fun, joy and excitement of something that was getting bigger and bigger.

But it was not until the early 2000s, when the turning point for esports occurred, bringing video games right to the masses. It was that time that video gaming reached an unthinkable magnitude of players and viewers and in reality reached  audiences and target markets that could not even be conceived prior to the 2000s. In fact, in the beginning of the new century, the advent of the internet, the massive growth of technology and the continuous development of information and communication systems laid the foundations for the establishment of esports. With the internet, video gaming could connect gamers around the world, enable interaction in real time and give rise to organized competitive events for top players. Video gaming thus became interactive in real time!

In the 2000s

South Korea – a high tech pioneering country – held the first World Cyber Games (WCG) in Seoul in 2001 and it was an absolute success. The World Cyber Games was the first esport international tournament to be organized and at that time it constituted the highest profile esports event, brought to the eyes of the public. With an unthinkable, at least for the time, total prize of something near $300.000 and more than 30.000 spectators watching the tournament live at the arena, the first formal international competition became the building block for the years of the billion dollar industry to come.

In the 2010s

The 2010s gave far greater visibility and popularity to esports with the development and establishment of streaming. Twitch was turning into the mainstream platform for game streaming and competition viewership, esports were receiving ever more worldwide attention, esports betting was growing fastly with bookmakers developing special sections on esports and esports players gaining millions and millions of money.

With so much money involved, Esports teams, brands, tournament organizers, and other stakeholders should seek the advice of a lawyer specializing in the industry.


Today, esports are so deeply embedded into the world of sports and there are so many ups for grabs, that they are even making their way to the Olympics! Esports are a growing segment of the sports industry, with widespread interest and billions of fans around the world. Unpleasant, sad and unfortunate incidents just like the Jacksonville incident should by no means be associated with the phenomenon of esports.