"I think it's fair to say that personal computers have become the most empowering tool we've ever created. They're tools of communication, they're tools of creativity and they can be shaped by their user" said Bill Gates, and it no surprise that computers made him one of the most powerful and wealthiest people of all time.
Of course, these words seem blatantly obvious to us now, mostly because it has been a long time since computers became a part of our daily lives. But it is hardly the only thing that was transformed by new technologies. Our hobbies and modes of entertainment have also changed. Sports is no different, it has also been exposed to the new tools of our world, and it would be illogical to expect otherwise. As Gates put it, we are able to create new worlds with our new tools, and that makes the whole difference. Kids around the world enjoy countless different world simulations on their computers, consoles and smartphones. That is the direction the future of sports is heading and Turkey should also lead from the front.
At the time I was writing this piece, 3.6 million people were watching online games on Twitch. Of them 290,000 viewers were watching Fortnite, 200,000 were watching League of Legends and 90.000 were watching World of Warcraft. There were also thousands of people not only playing games but also watching other people playing games. It may sound insane to older generations, but there are now millions of people willing to watch online games as a source of entertainment. The numbers are truly mind-boggling. For instance, League of Legends World Championship in 2017 was watched for 4.4 billion hours in total with 106 million peak viewers, in just one month. What is also mind-blowing is that there are now many tournaments organized regularly, ranging from seasons to mid-season invitational. Despite football or basketball, where the numbers are occasionally high, esports ratings are always high and the popularity of the events never drop significantly.
As for the despised gamers, who are thought to have asocial and unfulfilled lives, their success may also blow your mind. The highest earning esports player, Kuro Takhasomi, better known as KuroKy, has already earned $3.7 million as of July 2018 and there are now countless millionaire gamers around the world. Not bad for a young man sitting in front of a computer screen 12 hours a day, eh? But now, almost all big tournaments regularly hand out millions of dollars in prize money to gamers, increasing the popularity of esports even further.
However, the prize money was not even close to the millions in the early 2000s. The ongoing Dota 2 International 2018's $25 million prize pool clearly shows the rapid development of the industry. When 2006 FUN Technologies Worldwide Webgames Championship was organized, it was the first esports tournament to offer a $1 million grand prize. If the industry can come this far in only 12 years, you can imagine where it can go in the next 10. The esports market revenue worldwide has reached $900 million today from 130 million in 2012. Now there is clearly a great potential for any future investors.
Turkey has a great potential in esports. Turkish E-Sports Federation Chairman Alper Afşin Özdemir recently told Daily Sabah that Turkey has the potential to become a center of esports. According to the esports report of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, there are 15,000 amateur esports teams and 60,000 amateur gamers in the country. With nearly $880 million in revenue from digital games in 2017 and 4 million fans and followers, the potential is huge. The establishment of the E-Sports Federation was a move in the right direction.
However, there are still a lot of things need to be done. Two most famous Turkish games, Mount and Blade: Warband and Zula reached 22,000 and 9,000 peak viewers on Twitch last year. The numbers are clearly not competitive in the market right now, but they are promising given the limited resources. With the right initiatives led by the federation, these numbers can reach millions and Turkish games can compete in the global market. The number of tournaments and events must also increase, as there is already enough demand.
If the mainstream media picks up esports events, it would significantly boost its popularity. As the popularity of other, more traditional sports, decrease in Turkey, I call on the broadcasters to invest in this sector. With good teamwork, Turkey can dominate this new, unlimited industry.