You can argue about whether or not competitive gaming is a “real sport” until you turn blue in the face, but it doesn’t matter. Wherever there is competition, the money soon follows. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking baseball, badminton or League of Legends; someone is always going to find a way to bet on the outcome or organize a fantasy league around that activity.
Daily fantasy eSports (DFeS) is only the logical progression when you consider the millions of dollars that will be awarded to the top competitive gaming teams in the world this year. With eSports tournaments filling the World Cup Stadium in Seoul, South Korea and attracting sponsorships from the likes of Monster Energy and Coca Cola, it should be no surprise that fantasy sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings are now catching a ride on the eSports bandwagon.
Note: The only two fantasy e-sports providers have now closed for business. The eSports industry shows signs of significant growth, but it looks like it will be a while before fantasy contests involving eSports catch up.
In the meantime, you can check out the two major DFS providers for fantasy leagues covering traditional sports:
Daily Fantasy eSports Explained
Competitive video gaming meshes well with the fantasy sports model because it involves competitions between teams of active competitors. Once you get past the fact that your roster picks are filled by people playing games like Dota 2 and League of Legends rather than football and baseball players, you will find that DFeS contests work just like “normal” fantasy sports contests.
The big fantasy eSports sites host contests that revolve around upcoming gaming tournaments. For example, you might visit DraftKings and join a $3 contest for some upcoming League of Legends tournament. Once you enter the contest, you’ll be given a virtual salary of $50,000 that you spend to build an 8-man roster.
At DraftKings, your lineup in a LoL contest would consist of 7 players plus one team slot. Your job as the manager of your own fantasy team is to choose gamers to fill slots for top, jungle, mid, ADC, support and two flex spots (can be filled by anyone). Lastly, you would need to choose one entire team to fill your final slot.
Player prices vary based on their perceived strength entering any tournament. If someone has been on a tear lately or is otherwise expected to perform well, that person will cost more virtual money for you to add to your team. Building an effective roster is both challenging and fun because you have no choice but to make tough decisions so you can stay within the salary cap.
Next, your DFeS site will monitor the next competition and track each player’s stats as he competes with his team and against other players. As your picks play in the tournament and achieve kills, assists and other stats, you earn fantasy points for your team. The more points you earn, the more likely you are to win the fantasy league and earn a cash payout.
DraftKings explains it well with this video:
Games Being Played
One of the cool things about daily fantasy eSports is that it is such a dynamic landscape. Old games are frequently updated and new games can be added to the lineup as they grow in popularity. It’s a much more fluid environment than the traditional DFS world. The list of games covered by DFeS sites is bound to change, but here’s a quick look at what is popular right now.
League of Legends: League of Legends (LoL) is a team-based game or, more specifically, a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA). It pits two teams of five players each against one another. The ultimate objective is to advance across the map and destroy the enemy’s Nexus. Each team begins with fairly weak characters who grow in power as they kill neutral monsters and earn achievements.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: Counter-Strike Global Offensive (CS:GO) is the latest implementation of the classic first-person shooter first released in 1999. In this game, two teams (terrorists and counter-terrorists) compete to complete objectives such as planting a bomb and disarming the bomb. Victory can also be achieved by killing all members of the opposing team before the objective has been completed.
Dota 2: Defense of the Ancients 2 is another MOBA-style game that loosely resembles a more in-depth variation of LoL. Like LoL, this one also takes place on a large battle arena in which two teams of five players compete to destroy an important structure defended by the enemy.
Smite: Smite is yet another MOBA but this one is played from a third-person persecptive that puts you right in the middle of the action. Players form two teams of five players with each player controlling a mythological god that they level up in order to destroy the enemy’s Titan.
Hearthstone: If you have any experience with Magic: The Gathering, you should have a pretty basic idea of what Hearthstone is all about. Basically, Hearthstone is an online collectible card game in which your objective is to reduce your opponent’s health to zero using a carefully-constructed deck of cards consisting of weapons, creatures and spells. As a newbie, you begin with a set of basic cards to choose from and can then unlock rarer and more powerful cards through in-game purchases and by completing single player adventures.
The Rise of eSports
You could make a strong case for daily fantasy eSports being the most surprising development in online betting. Over the past couple years, competitive gaming has undergone a silent but seismic shift from something once pursued by only the most dedicated gamers to something that is starting to attract mass appeal. The growth of eSports is now catching the notice of major publications for the first time ever.
ESPN, Forbes and just about every other major news organization have slowly ramped up their coverage of the eSports industry and even specific events like the League of Legends World Championship. A paper published by Eilers Research once predicted north of $23 billion being wagered on eSports by 2020. That may be an optimistic projection, but the fact that serious organizations are even considering numbers that big tells us that something important is happening with eSports.
The money involved in professional eSports is growing by the year with individual tournaments paying out upwards of $18 million in prizes to the top team. If you look at the top 25 players in eSports, all of them have already accumulated more than $600,000 in career earnings, with some players already taking in nearly $2 million. These numbers are only expected to increase as professional gaming continues to grow.
Twitch.tv has played a major role in spurring the growth of eSports viewerships and subsequent sponsorship money. Gaming fans tune in to Twitch by the millions to watch the best players in the world compete and comment on games. Some months clock in with more than 100 million unique users visiting the site. Corporate sponsorship of eSports is now topping $111 million in North America alone.