South Korea is known for its passion for gaming and Esports. Esports, short for electronic sports, has become extremely popular in South Korea due to various factors such as easy access for the youth to access high-speed internet, the rise in the cultural acceptance of gaming, and the rise of Esports. The Korean Esports scene is grown over the years due to South Korea’s strong esports community, well-organized professional leagues, and Esports tournaments that bring tens of thousands of fans. It is estimated that the average Korean spends 2 hours a week playing games, with active gamers in Korea spending close to 2 hours a day!

South Korea has one of the fastest and most advanced internet infrastructures in the world, making it possible for people to play online games with low latency and high-quality graphics. In addition, the South Korean government has recognized the potential of the esports industry in Korea and has actively supported the industry through funding and infrastructure development. Many Esports, such as League of Legends (LoL), Starcraft, and more, are shown on television, which has led to the rise in popularity of professional Korean Esports teams and pro gamers.

South Korea – Biggest Esports Gamers in the World

Esports industry in Korea

South Korea has the biggest Esports gamers in the world. China, Denmark, and the United States follow them. This is why many gaming companies focus on the Esports industry in Korea during their market research if their game is successful in South Korea and develops a strong Esports community, it has the potential to go viral. How South Korea became the gaming capital of the world is simple.

While video game tournaments have been around since the 1960s, it was in South Korea that esports truly began to take form. With the country’s economic growth in the latter half of the 20th century came the growth of the Korean entertainment industry, including gaming. By the end of the 1990s, the South Korean government had made the decision to build a national broadband network, which allowed for the explosive growth of online gaming.

The real breakthrough came with the release of Blizzard’s StarCraft: Brood War in 1999, which couldn’t have come at a better time to captivate Korean gamers. As the gaming community grew, it wasn’t until cable TV channels started regularly broadcasting StarCraft matches that esports started to gain widespread attention. Soon after, the first esports leagues were established, laying the groundwork for the global esports culture we know today. This has led to the popularity of pro gamers on the same level as pro athletes. The younger generation started to see esports as a legit profession.

Esports Industry in Korea

Today, South Korea is well-known worldwide for its government-backed initiatives and infrastructure supporting the growth of esports. The government has invested in several esports-specific facilities, such as the Busan Esports Arena, which was the first one built outside of greater Seoul. Both the Korean Culture Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism and the city of Busan invested around $1.5 million in constructing the arena.

In 2023, League of Legends remains the pop Esport in South Korea. It is estimated that over 35% of the total playing time of games played in PC bangs (Gaming centers) in South Korea was spent playing LoL. Other games include PUBG and Dota 2.

A Truly Global Sport

What makes Esports “extra” global is that each game within Esports has its own set of fans and following. For example, most Pro-gamers do not focus on games related to real sports. The most popular Esports seems to be a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game. These games include Dota 2 and LoL. This makes sense, the appeal to playing real sports games online is low when you can be in a war and fight monsters or aliens. Therefore, these worlds are something everyone can be a part of. You don’t have to understand the NFL, Cricket, Taekwondo, etc….all are on an equal playing field.

Esports connects gamers under the age of 30, irrespective of their location. This is why the potential for Esports tournaments is huge. There will be heavy competition from YouTube, Facebook, and Amazon. Even streaming platforms like Netflicks and Hulu for exclusive distribution rights. A single Tournament Final has the potential to generate over 300 million viewers! Compare this to the Super Bowl, which brings in around 100 million viewers annually.

The Future of Esports – From Console to Online to Mobile to VR

While console games are still popular in Japan, the world has pretty much transitioned into online gaming. Many in the Esports industry see the future of Esports will be on mobile before moving on to VR. It is estimated that close to 6 billion people all around the world will have a smartphone by 2025. Therefore mobile is the future of Esports to bring in new players, advertisers, and fans. Mobile games have limitations due to their small screens and limited graphics compared to computer online games. This is where VR will come into play. VR will be able to combine the mental/strategic side of Esports with the physical. Fans will be able to watch epic battles from the comfort of their homes through their VR headset. Why go to an Esports event when you can be in the Esports Arena Virtually?

It is hard to predict the future of Esports. Esports is an infinitely promising yet rapidly-changing industry. One thing is for sure, people will continue to watch and play games, whether it is on their smartphones, computers, or VR. Therefore there will be a growing number of viewers and players that will continue to increase the popularity of Esports. As popularity grows, so will revenue. The fact that anyone worldwide can join makes Esports the future of Sports.