eSports Milestone: Pro Gamer Ninja To Be The First Pro Gamer Featured On ESPN Magazine Cover
from the paid-to-play dept
We have been tracking milestones in the maturity of eSports as a real cultural pastime for several years now, given how eSports almost perfectly intersects two main topics here at Techdirt: technology and digital economies. While those that claimed eSports would become a real thing have long been the recipients of skeptical narrow eyes, pro gaming has already zoomed past a number of important checkpoints on its way to legitimacy. Tournaments were heavily viewed overseas at first, but pro gaming then became recognized by universities for athletic scholarships. Next came coverage of tournaments on ESPN, followed eSports leagues being created by some of the major professional sports leagues in America and abroad. Even the IOC kicked around the idea of including eSports in future Olympic Games.
While the latest milestone perhaps isn’t as grand as the opening of leagues and new broadcast channels, it is still a notable development that the very first pro gamer will be featured on the cover of ESPN The Magazine this week. That honor will go to Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, who has amassed an enormous following on Twitch and elsewhere.
Ninja revealed the cover on Twitter and said “So excited to be the first professional gamer to be featured on @espn the Magazine. Cover and profile will be shown on Sports Center tomorrow in the 7 AM EST hour.”
We’ll have to forgive ESPN for the hamfisted Playstation controller icons that accompany the cover image, I suppose. The bottom line is that this ESPN cover is reflecting the popularity of pro gaming, not creating it. Ninja has recorded streams viewed by over a half a million people, putting his viewership at levels that rival smaller professional sports events. Given the adoption of eSports by younger generations, ESPN needs to cater to those interests, if only for purely business reasons.
Still, ESPN is a mainstay in the professional sports world. It’s no small thing that eSports has reached a place to be featured on the cover of its magazine. In other words, anyone waiting for this whole eSports fad to wane in popularity appears to have been waiting in vain.