The newest pro sports league has it all: dynamic young players, a loyal fan base and teams in major cities around the world led by the some of the same high-profile owners as the New England Patriots, New York Mets, Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia Flyers.
The Overwatch League, which launched in January, is the latest manifestation of the e-sports craze. For the uninitiated, eSports is where online gamers compete before an audience watching via video-streaming sites like Twitch and YouTube. Special events, like tournaments or the playoffs, can draw thousands to watch the competition together at venues that range from those built specifically for eSports-viewing to traditional theaters.
For those age 14 to 21, eSports are about as big as football, according to results of a UMass Lowell-Washington Post poll. Forty percent of that age group said they are football fans while 38 percent count themselves among fans of eSports.
“The popularity of eSports and online gaming among American teens and young adults as both a recreational activity that you participate in or can also watch reveals a shifting landscape for what constitutes a sport in American life. It is absolutely telling that the fan base for eSports is just as large as the fan base for professional football among Americans ages 14 to 21,” said Prof. Joshua Dyck, co-director of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion, who wrote and analyzed the poll with The Post. “The reasons teens and young adults give for participating in eSports/online gaming mirror many of those given in our survey of adults 18 and older about why they watch live sports.”
The availability of online gaming may speak to its popularity among those age 14 to 21. Fifty-nine percent of teens and young adults in that age group said they have either participated in a video game competition or played an online video game with multiple players in the last 12 months and a similar 58 percent have watched people playing games online on platforms such as Twitch and YouTube.
The popularity of eSports is even higher among young men: 89% of male teens and young adults said they have either played online video games, participated in a competition and/or watched others playing games online in the last year. Only about one in 10 males in that age group have had no interaction with online gaming in the last 12 months.
Asked whether they would rather spend a free hour of time watching a live e-sports competition or watching a live sporting event, such as football or the Olympics, the live sporting event won, but the younger the respondent, the more likely they were to choose eSports.