If any game company wants to legitimize esports in the mainstream, it’s Riot Games. League of Legends is its moneymaker, its cash cow, but to take that next step requires the public at large to accept League as a legitimate sport — and not just a “video game.”

Enter the latest promotional video for the game. It starts with various media figures, both in and out of the sports world, such as Jimmy Kimmel, Whoopi Goldberg, and noted troll Colin Cowherd. It then transitions into many people defending esports, noting the passion and dedication of its players and fans, its attendance numbers (“71 million watched it last year … by 2017, it’ll be 145 million people watching it”), and a line about the government acknowledging professional video gamers as athletes.

It is, of course, marketing, using a few snippets of conversation to drive a narrative. The government recognizes esports athletes as athletes so that they can get visas — there’s no law that states you need to recognize e-athletes as athletes or anything like that.

As for the audience numbers, the “145 million viewers by 2017” total seems to come from this NewZoo report from 2014. It should be noted that this means 145 million enthusiasts across all esports. League of Legends may get a reasonable chunk of that, but there’s also Hearthstone, Dota 2, Overwatch, CS:GO, StarCraft II, and plenty of others to include in that total. Meanwhile, soccer alone is estimated to have about 3.5 billion fans — roughly half the planet — and even the small-by-comparison NFL thinks it has 270-300 million fans worldwide.

Where the video might be more successful is pointing out that passion and dedication of fans, and trying to at least paint esports as something that can be enjoyed in the same way as regular sports. You can compare unfavorably, if you want, the actions of playing a video game versus, say, making a tackle or running really fast, but when you get down to it, the fans are all the same. We sit on our couches or in our chairs, watching intently and cheering or cursing our team. That’s true whether you’re watching the Dallas Cowboys or Dignitas.

Maybe that’s the way to present esports and help it gain acceptance in the mainstream — not through misleading and unfavorable numerical comparisons, or the games and their athletes, which are very different from physical sports and their players (“If you don’t break a sweat, I don’t consider it a sport,” says Jenny McCarthy, who also thinks vaccines are dangerous). Instead, focus on the fans and the highs and lows of competition, which are the same for whatever league — “Champions” or “of Legends” — you’re talking about.

the author

Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

20 Readers Commented

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  1. IMFAKE on December 7, 2017

    If there’s no rich guy making a billion $$$ off this, then it’s not a sport.
    |
    No rigged events, not a sport.
    |
    No cheaters, not a sport.
    |
    No fake publicity stunts, not a sport.

  2. questionyourthoughts on December 6, 2017

    well then should we call every game a sport then?

    • questionyourthoughts on December 6, 2017

      this is just entertainment this is not a sport. i love the game but i will never compare a game to the same as sweating, exercising for hours just to be better, and ect that a REAL athlete does. I dont even watch e sports or care for the pros bc this is a GAME. imagine going online and instead of downloading a “game” you’re now downloading a “sort”. uuugh i dont think so

      • Curst on December 7, 2017

        You don’t seem to know the first thing about videogames, why are you on this website? Just because you don’t end up as a cripple at the end of your career doesn’t mean you can’t call it “REAL” sports.

  3. lol on December 5, 2017

    Real athletes poop in a sock.

  4. ZED.pt on December 5, 2017

    This is an old man discussion.
    Younger generations have grown with e-Sports,and no matter how many people say its not a sport they will still see it as a sport.
    And many like me,in my 40’s that pushed e-sports into the spotlight see it as a sport too.

    And then theres the stereotype that ppl that play computer games are all sedentary and out of shape,but if we look at the average e-sports competitive player,you see that is not true.

    • Twilght on December 5, 2017

      E-Sport is confusing’s. I rather play real sport outside to get some exercise to compete with other people.

      • FTK on December 6, 2017

        That’s why its called E-Sports, like the letter E stands for ELECTRONIC, so you have a sport that can be played by anyone without Injury that can render you unable to play, its safer than running around outside and throwing balls to a basket with additional mix martial arts on the side if you get what i mean.

  5. detestt on December 5, 2017

    Never.

  6. Curst on December 5, 2017

    IMO two biggest problems with esports is that:
    1) gamers are generally viewed as worthless humans who basically need to “get a life”, that goes double for pro gamers and makes it hard to promote a positive image of both players and games they play;
    2) esports don’t promote healthy lifestyle, they don’t promote any kind of lifestyle actually (contrary to what some may believe), which doesn’t help with the first problem at all.

    I don’t think these issues can’t be overcome by anyone’s conscious effort, no matter how much money they’d be willing to invest. The only way to go is to push the “but it’s entertaining to watch, profitable, and not morally questionable” narrative.

  7. Kevin Flemming on December 5, 2017

    Comparing E-Sports to “proper” sports is just silly. They are nothing alike. Majority of gamers can pick up a game and be good at it, whereas not everybody remotely fit can run a marathon or pole vault.
    .
    Sure, there are lots of people watching but thinking that it holds the same prestige as physical sports is ridiculous.

    • Curst on December 5, 2017

      Being able to “pick up a game and be good at it” is not the same as being able to pick up a game and win a tournament. Most people with two legs can run, that doesn’t make them all “proper sports” material.

    • Goblin on December 5, 2017

      No-one is completely comparing them, it’s obvious that E-Sports and regular Sports is not the same if you compare the amount of psychical activity. It’s just based on the popularity and from the point of view of the fans and viewers.
      Physical sports obviously has more prestige since it has been for a very long time and has been accepted and build up nicely. Same can happen to E-Sports as well.
      You do understand that people can be good and running and pole vaulting as well right? But that does not make them professional athletes, they are just good. If you think that a good gamer is like a professional gamer, try them yourself.
      It just takes too damn long for humans to accept new views or things or anything at all sometimes.

  8. SqueezyTime on December 5, 2017

    Just like all sports, esports exist to entertain the masses and to move large amounts of money, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t be considered “real sports,” I will say, however, that athleticism pertains specifically to physical fitness, so those who compete in esports are in no way ‘athletes’. In fact, you could even say that esports heavily encourage an unhealthy, sedentary and is likely to actually result in those who compete in esports seriously—and lack the time/willpower to dedicate to physical fitness—to live relatively short lives.

    • SqueezyTime on December 5, 2017

      *edit: (meant to say “sedentary “lifestyle”)

    • Riddix on December 5, 2017

      I don’t think that putting your body under constant stress daily is healthy.
      then you might say, “well, athletes have a strict regime of training and resting periods”
      don’t you think that pro e-sport “athletes” also have strict regimes of rest and training?

  9. rickshaw on December 4, 2017

    Off Topic
    Maybe to get better response here as a lot of people do not like to typing it seems.
    Place a tick list
    Like
    Yay, no, Your right, your wrong, no way, Really, Amazing, & Ok,
    or anything similar to those points this way reactions to your posts would be quicker by way of viewers ticking box’s
    Come to think of it that may be just as hard for them. lol

    Back On topic:
    I don’t see why not
    Gaming is a very demanding, enduring, exhausting, brain swabbing, human achievement sport.

  10. Yohoho on December 4, 2017

    Football, basketball and many other currently recognized sports were just games in the past as well. To spend some time and have fun. Some people saw an opportunity in it and turned it in a show for many reasons. Same can be done to E-Sports as well, and it probably will be done.

    • RainbowDash on December 5, 2017

      I wonder why people now becoming so lazy to nowadays on gaming?

  11. YOHO MOHO on December 4, 2017

    I decide what i think thank you very much.

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