When it comes to video games there are three types of players in this world. Those who play alone, those who play with friends, and those who are so passionate they make a career out of it. These are the gamers who are fully engaged in eSports, an organized competitive video gaming that involves teams competing against each other in tournaments, just like traditional sports, with the goal of winning a cash prize.
Esports came about as a result of special games that are developed to favor competitiveness among players. These games haven’t only shaped the eSports landscape but have also become cultural phenomena in their own right. Esports have now become one of the fastest growing markets, and it’s even possible to bet on the events with site bookies you can find on Surebet and other betting platforms.
eSports started out as something only the most passionate would be interested in. From its humble beginnings, it has now blossomed into massive tournaments watched by millions. In this article, we look at the video games that made eSports what it is today.
A Timeline of the Most Impactful Games for Esports
Like many gaming stories, the eSports story starts with Pong. This 1972 Atari game was essentially a digital version of table tennis. Players controlled paddles and bounced a ball back and forth. Although basic by today’s standards with minimalist graphics, Pong laid the foundation for competitive gaming. People who could try it were immediately impressed. It was successful, and people just loved competing in this game.
Space Invaders (1978)
Space Invaders was one of the first games to introduce high-score competitions. Gamers across the globe were captivated by the challenge of defending Earth from an alien invasion. Players competed to achieve the highest score, turning arcades into hubs of competition and camaraderie.
Street Fighter II (1991)
Street Fighter II, a seminal fighting game released in 1991, left an indelible mark on eSports. With its diverse roster of characters, intricate move sets, and head-to-head combat, it redefined competitive gaming that gave rise to the fighting game community and tournaments like EVO.
The global appeal and balanced gameplay of Street Fighter II made it a spectator sport, attracting crowds to arcades and, later, live streams. Its influence extends to modern eSports, fostering a culture of competition and camaraderie. Today, it stands as an enduring symbol of the grassroots origins of eSports, proving that pixelated warriors can become legends in the world of gaming.
Starcraft is a masterclass of competitive gaming developed by Blizzard Entertainment. It allowed for more complex strategies and truly unique factions with the Terran, Protoss, and Zerg. It quickly gained massive attention in South Korea, and it became a national phenomenon. It’s one of the games that made South Koreans fall in love with eSports.
Counter-Strike, also known as CS, transformed first-person shooters (FPS) into a competitive eSports phenomenon. It featured terrorists and counter-terrorists facing off in intense rounds, requiring teamwork and precision. The Counter-Strike franchise continues to be a staple in the eSports world. Sure, people were already playing Quake before, but it’s this Half-Life mod that changed things. It’s probably due to the more realistic setting and weapons.
Warcraft III (2002)
Warcraft III, another gem from Blizzard, introduced the MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) concept. Something now more common but revolutionary at the time. Without this game, Dota and League of Legends (LoL) wouldn’t exist. Since they’re mods made from Warcraft III. These two mods are now among the most-played games in competitions.
Super Smash Bros Melee (2001)
Super Smash Bros Melee, part of the iconic Nintendo franchise, brought together beloved characters from Nintendo’s universe for epic battles. Its fast-paced gameplay and competitive scene have endured for over two decades. Nintendo has die-hard fans, and every new Smash Bros game is an unmissable event. It’s also an opportunity for new competitions using characters everyone loves.
World of Warcraft (2004)
Do we need to talk about World of Warcraft? It’s the game people think of when they hear MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games). It even had ads with the biggest Hollywood stars, and almost 20 years later, it’s still kicking with over a million monthly players in 2023. However, it’s the Esports Arena that makes it a part of the eSports scene. This mode offered teams to play against each other, and with all the magic powers and strategic gameplay, it made the experience captivating.
League of Legends (2009)
League of Legends (LoL) is a unique case in gaming history. Riot Games created it as a mod for Warcraft III, but its success turned it into a full game. However, it stayed free-to-play, and it’s one of the first games to adopt this model. You can play it for free, but you’ll have to pay to unlock cosmetics.
Its success in eSports is due to its formula. LoL perfects what Warcraft III did with bases and heroes having unique abilities, forcing players to make wise choices together. It’s all about creating the perfect team and balancing each members’ strengths and weaknesses. The League of Legends World Championship, an annual event, became one of the most-watched eSports tournaments globally.
Dota 2 (2013)
Dota 2, a sequel to the original Dota, maintained the MOBA legacy. It featured a massive prize pool for its annual tournament, The International. The competitive scene of Dota 2 continues to thrive, with players and fans passionate about the depth and strategy of the game.
Overwatch is also developed by Blizzard. It changed the competitive landscape by combining FPS and team-based gameplay. Team Fortress did it before, but it didn’t work like this game. It prompted the creation of The Overwatch League. This league quickly became one of the most watched. Unfortunately, the release of Overwatch 2 and the new rules of the competition have led to its downfall. Blizzard was asking teams to pay to enter the competition so only sponsored teams could participate.
Fortnite introduced the battle royale genre to the eSports world, attracting millions of players and viewers with its fast-paced, unpredictable gameplay. Events like the Fortnite World Cup offered massive prize pools, showcasing the potential for the success of eSports. It’s now an empire for Epic Games, with thousands of skins and weapons with famous brands. Star Wars, Marvel, and even singers are in Fortnite, and some of them have even been at the center of in-game events, like concerts.
Esports is More Than a Game Now
The games mentioned above, spanning over several decades and in various genres, have truly shaped eSports. They’ve shown that competitive gaming isn’t just a hobby; it’s a legitimate form of entertainment and a career path for many players. Esports is now a multi-billion-dollar industry, and its events have millions of people watching every year.
The video games that pioneered eSports have not only entertained but inspired countless numbers of people to chase their competitive gaming dreams. They’ve set the stage for an exciting future where eSports continues to thrive, capturing global audiences. The future is bright for competitive games, and developers know it. That’s why we see more and more attempts at creating such titles to take a piece of the cake.