SANTIAGO – The electronic sports industry is growing by leaps and bounds in the world and Chile is no exception. More and more teams and leagues are drawing professionals from the country. It is even becoming the seat of one of the most important tournaments in the Latin American world of eSports.
The industry of video games and electronic sports (eSports) is constantly growing. According to sports media AS, around 300 million people participate around the world. Moreover, the 2017 League of Legends (LoL) World Cup final had a viewing audience of 75 million, much more than the U.S.’s NBA, for example.
Video games and eSports are ever more popular in Chile, too, especially since the arrival of LoL in Chile in 2014. Entire professional teams are now dedicated to it.
What are eSports?
Not everyone agrees. According to AS, in the world are millions of games, but only a dozen are considered for eSports; and these games have the following in common:
- They allow direct confrontation between two or more players.
- Players compete on equal terms, with the victory exclusively determined by skill.
- There are leagues and official competitions regulated by rules and formed by teams and professional players.
- They are popular and competitive; that is, they have thousands of people playing and the media retransmit the competitions.
- They promote the desire to excel.
But even with these criteria, there is a second debate about whether eSports should even be called “sports.”
As AS notes, many experts say they are sports. AS also points to governments such as the United States and Germany, which recognize professional video game players as athletes, and the Korean Sports & Olympic Committee, which has, in the past recognized the national eSports association as a sports organization.
As Forbes reported last October, eSports could also be in the Olympics, “as soon as 2024 in Paris.”
The Chilean scene
In Chile, eSports have a strong presence. Among other things, Riot Games, which produces LoL, has a headquarters here, and the first virtual football league in Latin America was created here.
The latter was created by an alliance of the National Association of Professional Soccer (ANFP) and DIRECTV, and is called “Liga eSports Fútbol DIRECTV.” According to the official ANFP website, “the First Division already has professional video game representatives, adding to a trend imposed in Europe by teams such as Manchester City, Valencia, Paris Saint-Germain and in Brazil for Santos.”
The president of the ANFP, Arturo Salah, said on his website that “this is a new global trend and we received it in a very good way. We know how important video games are in the life of the fans and that it is a good complement to the traditional football that we live in stadiums.”
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LoL, the king
But not everything is football. The majority of eSports enthusiasts enjoy multiplayer online battle arenas, and, specifically LoL.
As reported by news site Emol, the Riot Games headquarters in Chile brings together eight professional teams (40 regular players and 16 reserves), and each year they hold tournaments through which they publicize the game.
Currently, Chile is also hosting one of the main tournaments in Latin America, in the “Liga Movistar Latinoamerica” (Movistar Latin American League), which encompasses 10 teams from countries such as Peru, Chile, Mexico, Argentina, and others. This championship is underway with several competition dates remaining.
An immature industry
Pablo Díaz, CEO of Barracks, a start-up that handles graphic and statistical material about the league, told Chile Today that although the Chilean industry is progressing, it still has a long way to go: “The Chilean eSports industry has a bit of good and bad. It lacks professionalism, there are a lot of amateurs, who don’t favor things like investment and work. But even so, Chile is very well positioned above all at the Latin American level and the presence of Riot Games proves it.”
Díaz emphasized, “it is still an immature industry, but we are in the process of development, and I also believe that there is tremendous potential to create a pole in the Southern Hemisphere of strong electronic sport.”
Nelson Quiroz is a 5th grade student in Journalism at the Universidad Central and will be interning at Chile Today between February and May. He writes about youth culture and fashion.