How big can eSports become? Skillz has awarded $10 million through its mobile games
The world of electronic gaming, or eSports, has been growing rapidly over the past few years.
Whether it’s an enormous League of Legends tournament at the Staples Center with millions in dollars in prizes up for grabs, or a head-to-head competition between friends on a mobile device, eSports appeals to wide swath of potential users. As crowdsourced data from website E-Sports Earnings shows, almost $130 million in eSports prizes have been paid out to gaming participants.
One company at the forefront of mobile eSports is Skillz, which serves both as a destination for eSports enthusiasts to find games in which cash prizes can be won and as a platform for game developers to add a paid competition component to their existing or in-development games. Today, the company announced that it has now paid out more than $10 million in cash prizes.
While $10 million isn’t a jaw dropping number, how Skillz reached that number shows just how quickly the eSports space is growing. “The crazy thing that’s happened with us,” said Skillz founder and CEO Andrew Paradise, “is that we reached our first million in prizes given out in eight months from when we launched. Our second million took four months. Right now, we are paying out a million every two weeks and that’s accelerating even faster.”
“$10 million is an exciting milestone, but the more interesting thing is the velocity of how much more activity there is with people playing eSports competitively on their mobile phones,” Paradise said.
Although not quite the same, Skillz operates in the same regulatory bucket as daily fantasy sports sites. Like FanDuel and DraftKings, Skillz’s eSports games are considered “games of skill” as opposed to “games of chance,” like blackjack, and are legal in most states.
Just like daily fantasy participants, some users of Skillz-enhanced games can make some serious money off playing the mobile games. Some players of the game Strike Bowling, for instance, are making tens of thousands of dollars per year, some in the six figures. “It’s staggering that someone is making a salary of $100,000 a year bowling on their phone,” said Paradise.
But more than just offering games, Skillz also allows game studios to use its platform to turn their own games into cash competitions. “We wanted to build out a competitive tournament system, and we’ve built out an SDKso that every game developer can eventually become an eSport game.”
Paradise also has a very bullish outlook on the future of competitive gaming. During our interview, he pointed out that it took many decades before games like football and basketball became "sports" with professional teams. By his estimation, with video games having been in existence for more than forty years, the acceptance of eSports as a mainstream sport shouldn't be that far off. He also believes that mobile will be the platform that these competitions will take place on and that Skillz has an advantage in the space.
“As the market’s evolved, it’s become really clear that we are defining the future of eSports on mobile,” Paradise said.
A decade ago, I doubt that anyone would have imagined that video game enthusiasts would fill sports arenas to watch players battle each other in a character combat game like League of Legends. It seems as if competitors bowling against one other on their mobile devices for large sums of money has the potential to be as big one day, as hard as that might be to imagine.