What is the structure of esports?

Many know or hear about esports in their everyday life: tournaments with multi-million dollar prize pools are held worldwide, followed by hundreds of millions of online viewers every year, and every significant sports resource has a long-run esports section.

If you're curious to know more on this topic — you're at the right place to learn what esports mean and more details about its structure and ecosystem.


What does esports mean?

Esports stands for electronic sports, meaning competition between players within a game with specific rules. Not every game can be an esports discipline — its mathematical core must have rules which put every player in an equal position, and its process mustn't have any chance of random events. 

Esports is a massive ecosystem with many people involved in a substantial number of processes, from creating ideas and developing games to organizing tournaments, their advertisement, and players competing on a pro-scene.

Developers

The fundamental component of esports is an esports discipline created by specialists — developers. It is on their work and ideas that the subsequent process of the players' competition in the game depends. For example, there are several disciplines in the Battle Royale genre today. The essence of the competition is the same: to survive until the end of a round, outplaying the rest of the competitors and becoming a champion. However, the content of each game and the visual component, and the mathematical formulas applied, for example, to the spawning of objects on the ground, are different.

The development of esports depends on the work of developers, their creativity, and their ideas. However, even five years ago, the general public of esports viewers, watching matches of professional teams in Counter-Strike, couldn't predict that Fortnite would become an esports discipline with colossal money prizes and popularity among amateur players.

The main idea is that there would be no esports evolution without developers and their constant seeking new ideas and creating exciting features.

Publishers

Another essential part of esports is publishers. Every industry needs money to function, and publishers sponsor developers to implement all the ideas into life. 

Publishing companies in the gaming industry are responsible for return on investment through post-release game sales. Independent development studios can turn to help from publishers for funding and providing the necessary resources, contacts, and additional personnel to implement certain functions in the game. In their turn, publishers can offer developers sponsorship and long-term cooperation for releasing their financial interest in particular game genres.

Publishers are the so-called "back-to-the-ground" link between the final product and the flight of the developers' imagination because they care not only about the result and the audience's impression of the product but also about the profit they can derive from the sale of a particular game. It affects the subsequent processes and financing of the next project.

Publishers' duties most often include promotion and advertising campaigns related to the game release, marketing, and distribution of finished copies to retailers. In this regard, publishers' relationships with influential esports organizations are vital, especially if their goal is a new esports discipline that could interest ordinary players and large esports teams.

It is important to note that, as a rule, a separate development team doesn't release full-fledged esports disciplines because this requires considerable financial investments and necessary cooperation with many organizations. However, publishers can have their development department or separate companies within the holding.

Esports associations

Countries that recognize esports as an official sport are setting up their esports associations to try and regulate the competitions following their country's rules. The list of such countries is South Korea (where The Korean Esports Federation, the significant participant of the industry, is located), the US, Brazil, Finland, Germany, Georgia, South Africa, Russia, Ukraine, Italy, Denmark, Nepal, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. However, the opinion of the game publishers still has more weight as they own games and set their rules.

The creation of associations will help generalize the rules for esports organizations, teams, players, and tournament organizers worldwide. In addition, this is a big step towards recognizing esports as an Olympic sport because the official rules require it of the Olympic committee.

Despite the rapid pace of development of the industry, the issue of regulating all processes by the worldwide association remains somewhat controversial among people who own and manage teams and publishers with their financial interests.

Tournament organizers

Game publishers can be the organizers of tournaments as they have exclusive rights to the game. However, in practice, publishers give this right to third-party professional companies that deal with all details.

The tournament organizer has a lot of responsibilities:

  • search for subjects of interest to the audience (esports disciplines); 
  • compliance with all agreements with the owner/publisher of the game;
  • creating the conditions necessary for the tournament (online and offline);
  • search for participants (teams/esports organizations);
  • search and arrangement of the venue for the tournament;
  • promotion of the tournament and creating interest for the audience;
  • selection of hosts/commentators;
  • providing the necessary staff for online and offline events;
  • contracts formation with third-parties (if required)
  • etc.

An essential duty of the tournament operator/organizer is the schedule formation for the tournament, matches' results registration and keeping the protocols of the tournament, control over the observance of the tournament regulations, and media coverage on social networks and other Internet resources, as well as the conclusion of agreements with popular media resources for events' coverage from the venue of the tournament.

It won't be easy to hold any tournament without tournament organizers because this massive esports machine needs control and a solid hand to operate the processes and staff.

Media

Media resources, through which interested people receive information about tournaments and events in the lives of players and teams, occupy an important position in the esports industry. They are the bridge between the behind-the-scenes of esports and gaming fans.

Their central role in the structure is to convey to the reader and viewer every detail of what is happening in esports or promoting and covering esports events without letting the interest fade away. As a result, we often see mentions of esports in various social networks, newspapers, TV programs, and shows, which maintains an interest in this industry — many people are involved not only in games but also in working in this industry.

Streaming platforms like Twitch or Youtube Gaming can also be considered a media resource, which can also be called an esports knowledge distributor: when a popular streamer starts playing an esports discipline and his fans also join the number of interested players.

Professional teams and esports organizations

Professional esports organizations (clubs) bring together talented players from all over the world under their wing, choosing the best for their rosters. However, it is essential to understand that the top five or six players in their discipline won't necessarily be the perfect team with amazingly positive results because the atmosphere within the team and the ability to play as a whole are vital components of the team's success.

This is the organization's and its employees' responsibility — to assemble the ideal combination of players who will focus on achieving the necessary results. Of course, there are also solo players, for example, in fighting games, whose results don't depend on the team, but they also tend to be part of the organization and follow the set rules.

The team's management controls all the processes necessary for the team: from the training schedule to living conditions during the bootcamp/tournaments and salaries. Every player in his game who aspires to become a professional esports player dreams of joining a famous team with a good reputation among the game's fans.

How many esports teams are there?

According to Wikipedia, more than 55 esports titles (mobile gaming and games' parts are not included) worldwide. And more than 13k esports teams, including famous old clubs and newly registered lineups worldwide. Each esports discipline has teams, but CS:GO, Dota 2, and League of Legends are numerous.

The biggest esports teams (organizations), with worldwide popularity and the most significant earnings, are OG, Team Secret, Astralis, Natus Vincere, Virtus.pro, Evil Geniuses, Team Liquid, Vici Gaming, Team Vitality, Gambit, G2, Royal Never Give Up, Invictus Gaming, DAMWON Gaming, etc.

Players

Games and esports could not exist without the end consumer — the player. Suppose we are talking about professional esports players. In that case, their role is prominent: they must achieve the team's goals without violating the rules of the organization. However, if we turn to ordinary players who spend their free time in esports disciplines, they are the basis for the existence of any game. Without the interest of an ordinary player and their pleasure from the game's process, the esports industry's reality is impossible. After all, if most players lose interest, no one will watch professional matches and support teams or esports athletes.

The number of competitive players was around 2.8 billion in 2020. And it grows with each year.

Viewers and fans

Today's pro-gamers were once casual players with a keen interest in esports disciplines. Therefore, esports fans always have two kinds of interest — a hobby and a potential job. The first category is those who like to play or watch matches in their free time, and the second is those who already work in esports or plan to get into this industry and show an increased interest in current events.

In one way or another, both categories are spectators of tournaments and the target audience of not only tournament operators but also sponsors interested in selling their products. Viewers and fans are an essential link in the structure of esports. The success of the tournament, the popularity of a particular game or team, and the demand for talent depend on their interest and opinion. Investors allocate funds for various esports events or the game's development that are potentially interesting to a broad audience, based on the current draw of viewers, using in-depth analysis in special analytical agencies. We can say that viewers and fans also set the course for the development of esports, equally with other parts of the structure.

Staff

Any industry is, first of all, the people who work in it. Therefore, one of the crucial links in the esports' structure is people who allow all processes to work harmoniously, in addition to the facilities indicated above. These include talents: commentators, analysts, and hosts are vital in any tournament.

Also, people who work for the benefit of esports but don't necessarily belong to any of the structures listed above and can be independent specialists:

  • Producers;
  • Project managers;
  • Marketing and PR;
  • Technical specialists of different directions (from monitoring online broadcasting or equipment in the bootcamp to providing venue functionality);
  • Investors and sponsors;
  • Financial and legal specialists;
  • Advertising and talent agencies.

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