French football club Paris St-Germain has created an esports team, BBC reports.
Esports will generate more than £1bn in global revenue and almost double its audience to nearly 600 million people by 2020, forecasters predict.
Esports is organised, competitive computer gaming and can be staged in front of a live audience and millions more online.
“It has the potential to become one of the top five sports in the world,” said Pete Warman of esport analysts Newzoo.
Some English clubs – including Manchester City – employ professional gamers.
Esports generated $493m (£400m) in revenue in 2016, with a global audience of about 320 million people.
Prize money of $93.3m (£76m) was won last year, with the winning team at the League of Legends world championship – the biggest esports event – sharing a pot of $1m (£810,000).
Paris St-Germain moved into gaming in October, creating its own esports franchise and signing three of the world’s leading gamers.
PSG wants to establish the team in one of esports’ most iconic games – League of Legends – as the club tries to raise its global profile, particularly targeting the US and Asian markets.
“Esport for us is a way to find a new fan of the brand, not necessarily focus on the soccer,” Fabien Allegre, PSG’s director of merchandising and brand diversification, told BBC Sport.
“The idea is to bring the club to a large number of people who don’t know anything about football.”
How do you create a professional esports team?
Bora Kim, PSG esports team manager
Personalities: “It’s like building a puzzle – you have to put all the pieces together.”
Communication: “Don’t be afraid because if you don’t talk then we will never solve the issues.”
Teamwork: “We try to always prioritise teamwork over an individual trying to be a star.”
Preparation: “When I was an amateur I had to bring my computer and everything… now as a player you don’t have to worry about anything else than just your performances.”
Where is the money coming from?
Sponsorship is the biggest revenue stream in esports, bringing in much more than is raised by the media, advertising, merchandise and ticketing.
Newzoo predicts income will treble in the next four years, valuing esports as a $1.49bn (£1.21m) industry by 2020.
So how big can esports get?
“Considering an audience of about 160 million is watching esports frequently and another 160 million watch big championship games, it already compares to medium-tier sports,” says Warman.
Who are esports fans?
“Young digital natives are not really into sports,” claims Warman. “The majority of these esports enthusiasts are aged between 20 and 35.
According to Newzoo, in 2016, the total esports audience in the UK reached about 6.5 million, with 3.1 million esports enthusiasts. The vast majority of these are males (69%) and aged 21-35.
And an esports World Cup?
“We already have world championships for individual games,” says Warman. “The question is are these games going to be put together to create one big World Cup event?
-By BBC Sport
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