ESports has been going strong over the past few years, with millions of viewers and live attendees checking out competitors in everything from League of Legends to Call of Duty: Black Ops III. However, 2015 marks its biggest year as competitive gaming continues to become mainstream entertainment.

Big money, big prizes.

With the growing popularity of eSports tournaments, more promotional partners have signed on, contributing a number of big prizes to go towards the biggest and best in the business.

No tournament stood out more this year than The International, Valve’s yearly get-together of the world’s best DOTA 2 players. With the help of items for the game sold to the community, The International managed to draw a whopping $18 million  the largest to date for an eSports-related tournament. With Valve’s brand strength, that number could grow even more next year.

In addition, up-and-comers have managed to raise large amounts of funding for their teams in the hopes of claiming their stake in the eSports world. Skillz, for example, raised $15 million in Series B funding back in September, with a number of big name partners like the Kraft Group and Mark Lasky (co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks) leading the charge.

2016 could mean even bigger cash flow for big and small companies alike, and it’s a safe bet that the audience will follow suit, with an estimated $1.9 billion in revenue expected in a few years’ time. 

Expanding into an unexpected medium.

There’s no question that eSports has been a big hit on the streaming platforms, with Twitch garnering over 100 million viewers monthly, and YouTube introducing its own gaming channel to engage with fans. But we’re starting to see more eSports-based activities coming to television, which could be a new trend for 2016.

ESPN was once against providing eSports coverage, but it changed its tune back in March with Heroes of the Dorm, a special program where competitors fought in Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm game for a chance at a hefty tuition fee contribution. As a result, the program fared very well on both the viewing and social front, and the channel could partner for similar tournaments in the months ahead.

In addition, TBS is set to take the eSports initiative on its airwaves, as it will be airing a special series focusing on competitive gamers competing in the first-person shooter Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The team hopes to draw in a massive audience, with its 90+ million monthly viewers.

Although it’s still a bit slow going, eSports is starting to seep into television, and it’s sure to keep going strong on the streaming front. It just helps to give it more exposure.

More competitions ahead

Finally, eSports saw a huge evolution in the number of tournaments being held worldwide this year. In addition to various events in the U.S., there were also special competitions held overseas, including South Korea, where Activision Blizzard’s StarCraft II continues to be a tremendous draw.

That said, more partners are stepping in to present eSports-related events for gamers of all skills to take part in. Intel continues to devote itself to particular events, recently celebrating the tenth year of eSports; and Activision recently announced the Call of Duty World League, working alongside its partners at Sony to create a new competition for pros and amateurs alike, which will culminate next summer in an all-out fight to the finish.

Between bigger money, bigger partners, greater exposure and no shortage of people itching to get a first place victory, eSports has shown impressive strength for 2015. And it’s only going to get even better from here.

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