Though not everyone realizes it, eSports actually date back to 1972. It was practiced in 1972 at California’s Stamford University. In their Laboratory for Artificial Intelligence, an eSports tournament is was held for a video game called Spacewar. Its 24 participants competed for the grand prize. The student that won the grand prize in this eSports event got a Rolling Stones magazine subscription, good for one calendar year.
In 1978, the first worldwide eSports tournament was held. Courtesy of Atari. Another tournament was held in 1980. There were more than 10,000 participants competing to win the official Space Invaders Championship. An early version of Asteroids was the game chosen for the tournament. The declared winner was William Salvador Heineman, who made history for being the first ever winner of an eSports tournament.
Two years later a community project in Germany would further contribute to the popularity of eSports. The project involved a four round gaming tournament, with a different game for each round. Teams competed in each game to determine the winner. Players had either 15 minutes or a half an hour to score as many points in that round’s game as possible. It took until the end of 1982 to declare a tournament winner.
By 1990 Nintendo was getting into the eSports tournament industry. They organized a World Championship tournament. The tournament was divided up so players were grouped by age. The tournament involved Tetris, Super Mario Bros, and Rad Racer. Each winner received a gaming module Golden Nintendo award.
Four years later, Blockbuster Video and American Game Pro Magazine organized their own eSports tournament. Among the games included in this tournament were Virtual Racing and Sonic the Hedgehog 3.
By the end of the 1990s eSports tournaments were more popular than ever. In 1999 a gathering was organized called the Gamers Gathering. It was held in Duisburg, Germany and had more than 1600 participants from all throughout Europe.
In June of 1999 a video game called Counter-Strike was released. The game is conducive to playing against others. Partly because of this, since it’s release it has gone on to become one of the most popular games included in eSports.
Those in South Korea were so interested in eSports that in 2000 the Korean e-Sports Association was founded. Original plans included bringing eSports to TV viewers.
2000 also saw the premiere World Cyber Games tournament. Three years later, in France, marked the first official Electronic Sports World Cup. The streak continued in 2005 with the Cyberathlete Professional League world tour. It made history, having been granted a $1 million budget. Ten of the world’s cities participated in this tournament. The live finale was aired in real time on the MTV network. Two years later, the Championship Gaming Series was held. The prize money for this tournament exceeded $1 million, the first of its kind to do so.
Since then, eSports has only become more widespread and is now an extremely profitable industry.