You might not have heard of eSports, but a lot of people have, including big names in traditional sports.
Businessmen have poured millions of dollars into local eSports teams. Some players even earn six-figure salaries while millions of fans watch online.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban each own an eSports team.
Right outside the home of the Dallas Stars and the Mavs is the home of one of the city’s newest pro sports team — Dallas Fuel.
The team took on the Houston Outlaws Thursday afternoon. The game was televised from an arena in Los Angeles. Currently, all 12 teams in the eSports league for the game "Overwatch" are being played there for the inaugural season. Eventually, each team will have its own venue.
“We really started with humble beginnings,” said Mike Rufail, owner and CEO of Dallas Fuel. “We were really just a small hobbyist gaming team that loved to compete.”
Since then, the hobby has grown exponentially. It's now a massive business.
A match last week between the Dallas Fuel and Seoul Dynasty drew 472,000 unique viewers online. As a whole, the Overwatch League drew 10 million viewers in a four-day period, beating out some online NFL streams.
“I think the NFL has lived on television so long, for example, and they certainly have a massive viewership there,” Rufail said. “It’s not something that I think we're ready to step over to, but we live in the online streaming world and we dominate that with eSports.
For the team's 50 players who come from all over the world, It's a lucrative gig. Many of them draw a massive following on social media and make good money, too.
“Many of our players are making six figures, and many of our staff are making six figures,” Rufail explained. “We're a full-blown sports team here.”
And just like football and basketball can appeal to people who don't play, the goal is for eSports to appeal to people who aren't gamers.
Much of their money comes from viewership through media distribution deals. They also have sponsors and sell jerseys and other merchandise.
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