Esports vs. Real Sports: A Comparison

Many Esports events feature packed out arenas like this one, and the turnout is not unlike that of a “real” sporting event.

What are the Differences and Similarities Between Esports and Real Sports?

There’s a lot more to a comparison between Esports and physical sports than just pointing out that one set of players sits and pushes buttons while the other runs a lot of laps and drink protein shakes.

How Do the Biggest Games Compare?

The American football game with the highest attendance was in 2009 at Soldier Field in Chicago. Though the stadium had a capacity for 61,000 audience members, attendance was nearly double that amount at 120,000. 

Compare that to the 104,000 on-site visitors at IEM Katowice, and you should be able to see the kind of exciting path being blazed by Esports. The Esports scene—including such games as League of Legends, Dota 2, Smite, Counterstrike, and StarCraft, among others—continues to grow at an astonishing rate in popularity and profit with each passing year.

Dota 2 is one of the most popular and long-running games played in the Esports scene.

How Much Money Are Esports Players Making Compared to Real Sports Players?

To answer this question, some facts and figures are necessary.

For instance, the highest paid physical athletes in the world are NBA players, with the average player being paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $4.6 million according to statistics in 2014.

Now let’s compare that salary to the highest paid eSports player, Saahil “Universe” Arora, who received a whopping $1,964,038 from playing tournaments in 2015.

Though the $4.6 million an NBA player makes is double and more the $1.9 received by “Universe” for playing Dota 2, that number remains impressive when considering the amount of time Esports has been around. Compared to a decades old sport like basketball, the Esports scene is just in its infancy, having really only gained momentum and started to shine in the mid-2000s and onward.

Saahil, or “Universe,” Arora is best known for playing Dota 2 in the Esports scene.

The highest paid Esports player may make less than half of the average NBA player, but Esports has accomplished that cool $1.9 million in a fraction of the time of basketball.

Real Sports May Still Have Esports Beat on Viewership, Though

The numbers for Riot’s 2016 Worlds Tournament are still in limbo, but for the 2015 Worlds Tournament, statisticians reported a total of 360 million total hours of live viewing of the tournament.

Moreover, there were 334 million unique viewers of the vent. As implied by “unique,” that means that astronomical number does not even include the viewers who tuned in to the 2015 World Championship Series for League of Legends a second, third, or even fourth time. Who knows, too, how many people might have been sharing a computer and were counted as only one view.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup Had its issues, but it still earned FIFA a whole boatload of money.

Even considering these exceptions, however, real sports still lays the smackdown on Esports’ viewership numbers. The 2014 FIFA World Cup, held in Rio De Janeiro in Brazil, had in physical attendance a mere 74,000.

But in viewership, 3.2 billion totally viewers were counted, with a total of 1 billion tuning in at the same time to watch the final game. The 2014 FIFA World Cup total viewership is almost 50% of the world’s total population. Esports simply has not been in business long enough to rival that kind of viewer loyalty and tradition.

Athletes’ Training vs. Gamers’ Training

The fun part of studying the differences between a “real” athlete’s training regimen and an Esports athlete’s routine is when you come to realize that though those regimens differ in content, they do not differ so much in intensity.

An Esports athlete and a real athlete must exhibit the same level of dedication and sometimes-grueling hard work as a professional athlete training for FIFA or the Superbowl or the Olympics.

Not only are their training schedules similar, but Esports athletes and physical athletes probably find their sports similarly nerve-wracking.

Sure, a real athlete gets up and does squats, runs laps, sweats, while an Esports athlete sits in a chair and clicks the buttons on a mouse, keyboard, or controller. Instead of a healthy breakfast of eggs and spinach, the Esports athlete is much more likely to reach for the takeout menu. The differences are undeniable.

But so are the similarities. Each athlete must sink hours into their practice because—no matter what the competition, physical or mental—the only way to victory is to practice, practice, and practice some more.

Which Industry is Worth More Overall, Esports or “Real” Sports?

Let’s return to one of the world’s largest sports organizations, if not the largest, FIFA.

From the 2014 World Cup in Rio De Janeiro, FIFA made an astonishing $4.8 billion in profits, despite the city of Brazil losing massive amounts of money on the endeavor.

In 2016, the European football (soccer) industry was worth more than 16.9 billion euros, which translates roughly to $18.4 billion in U.S. currency.

By comparison, Esports does not quite measure up to this worldwide dominator of the market, soccer. Esports’ total worldwide worth is $748 million. While this is in an impressive number, it does not even come close to the figure for FIFA.

Individual League players, though still not as wealthy as what soccer is worth, have income worth mentioning as well.

The logo of Team Solo Mid, whom some consider to be the American face of competitive League of Legends.

Team Solid Mid was worth $27 million in 2015. Cloud9 was worth $30 million, and Fnatic topped the charts at $42 million plus. The League of Legends World Championship Series Prize Pool just expanded from $2 million to $4 million.

Player Faker, considered by many to be the best LOL player in the world, is worth just shy of $600,000.

Whatever your stance on Esports as compared to real sports, you will be unable to deny looking at these figures that Esports is rapidly gaining in popularity. Who knows? Maybe it will give real sports a run for its money.

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Mackenzie enjoys playing League of Legends in her spare time but makes sure she doesn't miss out on big RPGs like Sykrim and Dragon Age too.
Gamer Since: 1999
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: League of Legends
Top 3 Favorite Games:Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Walking Dead, Fallout: New Vegas