As far more pedantic investigators are concerned, eSports can be traced back to the early seventies at the University of Stanford. The first competition was dedicated to the video game, Spacewar. However, a contest based around something much more recognizable, Space Invaders, was not far behind. The Space Invaders competition debuted in 1980. Of course, despite thousands of players entering the second tournament, the early days of competitive video gaming still looked nothing like the eSports of today.
By the new decade, like their real world counterparts, eSports has reached every continent on earth. This is largely due to the fact video gaming in general has too. For instance, CNN notes the competitive gaming scene in Africa is expected to grow by 12% before 2025, with several professionals coming out of South Africa and Kenya to date. It’s the same in Latin America, where revenues from Mexico are expected to top US$1.34bn by 2024.
eSports can be both a hobby and a livelihood so its development towards an internationally recognized phenomenon is likely to fold in businesses from all aspects of life, including corporate sponsors and large broadcasters alike.
However, observers within the niche will no doubt have noticed eSports tends to be a fickle thing. Other than the usual hurdles like money, there’s no reason why new video games titles can’t immediately forge a path into eSports competition. However, as evidenced by Amazon Games’ first effort at cracking the industry, via the now-cancelled game Crucible, there’s sometimes more to eSports glory than releasing a relevant title. Farm Simulator got into pro eSports. Amazon didn’t.
eSports Boxing Club climbing to the top
Boxing, for all its longevity, is another game genre that is curiously absent from eSports circles. This is due to a pair of reasons, namely, unsuitable and/or unpopular games and an apparent lack of interest in fighting games as a professional contest. Despite huge sales, even games like Street Fighter haven’t enjoyed the same kind of exposure in eSports circles as Overwatch, League of Legends, and CS: GO. The MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game has become the archetype of the eSport.
However, the concept of video games as a spectacle has worked its way into many of the same areas as regular sports, including viewing on Amazon’s streaming platform, Twitch, and wagering on various relevant markets. The bet365 website is one of the largest providers of eSports betting in Australia and offers odds on ‘eSoccer’ and ‘eBasketball’, categories that include games like NBA 2K and FIFA. Yet again, boxing is a notable absentee; however, this may be changing very soon.
Upcoming game, eSports Boxing Club, has based its identity around the concept of competitive video gaming. Developed by Steel City Interactive, the game claims a number of firsts and revolutionary features, such as realistic feinting, retirement, injuries, and commentary. It also has an extensive roster of more than two hundred fighters and a character customization system. On paper, it all sounds fantastic, but an unproven game, genre, and developer can have a hard time in eSports. Once again, just look at Amazon.
Making way for Steel City Interactive
Steel City Interactive is planning to run an annual tournament centered around eSports Boxing Club. The aim is to present a similar format to real-life pugilism. This means it all ends in a belt, the illustrious EWBC Champion of the World. Other than the fact the belt will be a physical thing in some contests and not just something to pin on your character’s shorts, almost nothing else is known about Steel City’s eSports aspirations.
The one question left to answer is a simple one – why has it taken so long to get boxing back into mainstream gaming? Unlike most sports, where players are part of their team’s license, boxers are singular entities, which means Steel City Interactive had to get two hundred agreements in place to include two hundred boxers. The developer referred to this feat as “the impossible”, a comment that works as both a neat marketing trick and a bit of a cautionary tale.
Ironically, considering how simple the gameplay can be, sports games are some of the most legally complex entities in the industry. Two recent developments involving FIFA highlight this trait well. EA has lost the rights to Juventus and now may seek to drop the FIFA license from its football franchise altogether. Inevitably, those changes are forced for financial reasons. As far as eSports Boxing Club is concerned, it may mean that boxers are rotated in and out of the roster as licenses permit.
Overall, eSports Boxing Club is a welcome addition to the sports sim genre.
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