From small LAN tournaments and niche player bases, to sold out stadiums and leagues that may one day rival those of traditional sports. Esports has come a long way. But what are some specific moments we can point to, that helped shape the esports landscape as we know it today. To be frank, that’s hard to trace.
And even harder to rank. But we here at theScore esports, we’re up for the challenge. So after weeks of heated debate here in the office, we give you the Top 10 Definitive Moments in Esports History. Okay guys we know that you’ve probably seen this play once or twice, but that doesn’t make it any less significant.
So as you may have guessed, the world-famous Faker Ryu Zed outplay is kicking off our list at number 10. (Casting) By now, we shouldn’t have to explain why this moment is so important to esports, but for those of you who don’t know, there was a point in time when the west wasn’t too familiar with Korean League of Legends or a young prodigy named Faker. “All aboard the Korean Hype Train, SK Telecom T1.” In a single moment of mechanical brilliance and perfect understanding of the game, Faker not only declared to the world that he is one of the best players to ever pick up the game, but shattered the game’s mechanical ceiling.
(Casting) The play went viral in the West and was the moment when the world truly understood that South Korea was playing the game on a different level. In its infancy, esports was primarily observed as a part of South Korean culture but in the year 2000, the World Cyber Games was formed in an attempt to emulate a traditional international sporting event. That’s why our number 9 spot celebrates the formation of WCG and the idea of esports as a global competition. “The fastest mouse clickers in the country are in Sydney this weekend, hoping to qualify as Australia’s entrants in the World Cyber Games in October.” With the goal of bringing countries together to compete in multiple titles, the event had been heralded as the Olympics of esports, and received sponsorship from the likes of Samsung, Microsoft as well as branches of the South Korean government. In fact, in the early 2000s, WCG was considered the biggest event of the year for many western pro players.
“The WCG has grown to become the world’s largest gaming festival. with more than one million participants in a year round tournament spanning 67 countries.” While it wasn’t the only esports event in the world to feature players from different countries competing, WCG played a huge role in turning esports into a competition that transcends geographical boundaries and it paved the way for the global competition we’ve come to expect today. Who would have thought that we’d ever be watching esports in major sports stadiums? That’s why our number 8 moment takes us back to a time when the thought of selling out a sports stadium felt like a dream.
While tournaments had been held in famous exhibition spaces, the League of Legends Season 2 World Championship in 2012 marked the first time in which we saw an esports event take place in a major North American sports venue, having sold out in just about a week. “10,000 adoring fans were in attendance. All to to see who will be crowned Season 2 World Champion.” And though the Galen Center may seem small in hindsight, Season 2 Worlds set the bar for future esports venues.
“Good evening and welcome to the 2016 League of Legends World Championship Semifinal broadcasting live from New York’s Madison Square Garden.” And since then, we’ve seen a number of historic venues open their doors for an esport event. With the growth of the League of Legends esports scene, Riot has begun to transform their competitive leagues to operate under a franchise model, a huge turning point for modern esports that takes our number 7 spot. “And fundamentally we believe that all parties that contribute to an ecosystem, should also benefit from it. So to do so, we’ll be sharing League revenues with teams and pros beginning in 2018.”
China’s LPL was the first major competitive region to adopt a franchise approach in 2017, while the NA LCS followed a year later, which meant security and stability for the players as well as investors and team owners. But it wasn’t just Riot. Blizzard announced plans for a franchised Overwatch league shortly after the game’s initial release. “Together with our new team owners, we are working towards launching the Overwatch League, as the pinnacle of Overwatch esports. One that all aspiring players and audiences can celebrate strive towards, and call their own.” Franchising in esports is still in its early stages and it is too soon to say what effects it will have in the long run.
But the money is there and the promise of stability has shown that big-name investors are not scared to get into the space and elevate it to heights that were once considered a pipe dream. 2017 was a turning point for League of Legends’ competitive landscape. By now you’ve undoubtedly heard of SKT, often regarded as the greatest LoL team in the world. But Samsung Galaxy put an end to their dynasty, besting SKT in a Worlds grand final that denied them a third consecutive Worlds title “The SKT Dynasty is over, all hail the new kings, Samsung Galaxy! Your 2017 World Champions.”
SKT swept Worlds 2013 finals in dominant fashion. After missing the World Championship in 2014, they would go on to reach back to back MSI finals, winning in 2016. “And SK Telecom continue to rule the world, and they are your Mid-Season Invitational Champions.” They would also take home consecutive World Championships from 2015 to 2016, cementing their status of being the undisputed greatest team in League of Legends.
“SK Telecom have won every World Championship they have entered, they are our first defending World Champions.” The entire Korean scene revolved around this organization who helped establish a period of dominance unheard of in any team-based esport and players around the world strived to follow in their trail. SKT defined an era of excellence and although it may have come to an end, their legacy remains the gold standard in esports for what it means to be the greatest and most dominant team on the planet. CS:GO may be one of the world’s biggest esports, but it wasn’t always that way as the competitive scene was split between CS:GO and CS 1.6 at the time of the game’s release.
That’s why the number 5 moment on our list brings us back to 2015, a year that cemented CS:GO as the definitive first person shooter title and an esports juggernaut. (Casting) Valve had already shown that they were willing to get involved and help it grow with the sponsorship of the Major Championships. ESL One: Katowice was the first Major of 2015 and not only was the competition incredible, the event was record breaking. Across Twitch, over 850,000 fans tuned in for the finals, a 150% viewership increase since ESL One: Cologne 2014. “This is what esports is about. It’s unreal, we’re grateful players.
I never in my life been so happy.” “It’s amazing.” While League of Legends was still at the top of the esports landscape, CS:GO had shot its way up and showed no signs of slowing down with more records being shattered at ESL: One Cologne 2015. (Casting) But its growth was not exclusive to viewership–investors were flocking to the scene as well. More teams were being signed to big professional organizations and leagues with huge sums of prize money were announced. “Hi I’m Shaquille O’Neal, part owner of the NRG.
When it comes to Counter-Strike and ELEAGUE? I wanted to get deep. Deep into the game.”
As CS:GO was propelled to the forefront, the first person shooter genre found its place in the world of modern esports. Taking the number 4 spot is one of the biggest esports rivalries of all time, Flash vs. Jaedong. The professional StarCraft scene in Korea had long been established since the earliest days of televised esports, but by 2007, that pro scene was beginning to fade. The next generation of stars had stepped up to make a name for themselves but none managed to achieve the level of dominance that previous players like BoxeR had attained.
“Boxer vs freaking YellOw. The legends match to end all legends matches.” But with each recurring encounter between Flash and Jaedong, StarCraft was thrown into a new age, better than any that had ever come before bringing some of the biggest crowds esports had ever seen. (Casting) Flash would achieve an incomprehensible level of dominance becoming the greatest player to ever touch a game that was thought to have been completely solved at the time.
“And Flash has gotta be so stoked, there he goes out. Taking the golden mouse, grasping it off of its pedestal. Thrusting it triumphantly into the air.” With multiple championships under his belt in just about every prestigious tournament there was, his otherworldly level of play was only rivaled by Jaedong.
A match between Flash and Jaedong was a Clash of Gods. The two always took the game to its absolute limits, to a point that has yet to be seen in any other esport, and redefined the concept of greatness, reshaping the world’s understanding of not only StarCraft but of competition itself. When we think of Dota 2 esports, we think of The International. (Casting) And when we think of The International, we can’t help but think of its multi-million dollar prize pools. Which is why the compendium finds itself at the number three spot on our list.
With a base prize pool of $1.6 million, Valve had introduced the Compendium for the International’s third iteration. It cost $10 and was available to be purchased more than once to help unlock in-game rewards. Most importantly, 25% of the compendium’s proceeds went directly into the prize purse, and through a crowdfunded effort, TI3 smashed the record for the largest esports prize pool at a single event, totaling $2.87 million. “It all comes down to this, one more game, two million dollars on the table. Winner, first place at The International, the Aegis, and the prestige of being the best Dota 2 team in the world.”
But then came The International 2014. Using the same Compendium system as the previous year but with added incentives, TI4’s crowdfunded prize pool had more than tripled the previous TI’s, with first place taking home $5 million. And let’s not even get started on the most recent TI. “Over the years the prizepool’s increased from 1.6 million to 3 million, to 10 million, 15 million, and the most recent one having just under 25 million dollars.” Other esports titles and game developers would follow in Valve’s footsteps. Riot for example crowdfunded their 2016 Worlds prize pool by selling in-game cosmetics, bringing the prize up to a total of $5.07 million, which ended up more than doubling the base amount of $2.13 million.
Blizzard’s introduction of the War Chest for StarCraft II in 2017 added an additional $200,000 to the base prize pool of $500,000. Fans have shown that they are eager to help contribute to prize pools in exchange for in-game rewards, proving the model to be a success for esports. EVO Moment 37–a moment so incredible that it transcends the world of fighting games.
This timeless classic takes the runner up spot on our list and deservedly so. In 2004 there was no Twitch, there were no million dollar prize pools, and for most people competing in video games was merely a hobby. The hundreds of attendees were all there for the love of the games, and there is no moment in esports that rivals the level of pure passion seen in Moment 37. “You know everyone kept talking about how great he is and everything like that, But the Daigo parry was that one moment where it happened.
And it happened in front of a bunch of people and it was ridiculous.” Moment 37 had it all. Two players of different nationalities battling their hearts out for a chance at glory. The home crowd favourite against a foreign legend, locked in an intense psychological war.
And in the blink of an eye, a never before seen display of unquestionable mechanical prowess lead to one of the greatest comebacks ever witnessed, captured under the deafening roar of a crowd who had just seen the impossible made into reality. Even those who don’t understand Street Fighter can appreciate its brilliance. The clip had gone viral in a time when that was no easy feat and remains one of the most watched esports moments of all time. Moment 37 is everything that esports should be and to this day continues to embody the spirit of competitive gaming. What started as a guy broadcasting his life in 2007, turned into the most revolutionary esports moment of all time, which is why we’re crowning the birth of Twitch.tv as our number one moment.
“We spent about six months working on Justin.tv gaming, and getting quite good results before realizing we needed a new brand. And we relaunched that brand as Twitch. In 2011.”
In June 2011, Justin.tv had launched their dedicated streaming platform for gamers–Twitch.tv. While Justin.tv was not the first and only platform available for streaming video games, the decision to split off from the main site and rebrand coincided with the global boom of esports that was happening at the time. “StarCraft II had just come out and that was pretty popular and people were uploading videos to YouTube and it was like, we should try and get more of this content on the site.” And there is no doubt that Twitch helped esports grow even bigger with its accessibility. While companies like MLG had been broadcasting tournaments on their own platform for years before Twitch, the name had become so closely associated with esports that fans would not settle for anything else. If there was a tournament taking place, chances are you would watch it on Twitch and if there wasn’t, then you could be watching your favourite pros at home, or really just about anyone playing anything you could think of.
(Stream) Twitch had become an outlet not just for esports but for pros and entertainers alike to share their gameplay, grow their fan bases and grow the industry. Esports was being broadcasted around the world, 24/7 for free. In 2014, Amazon announced that it had acquired Twitch.tv for nearly a billion dollars and since then, live streaming and esports have only gotten bigger. “Hang on, there’s nothing hotter in streaming video.” “Yeah I think that’s the case, and I really think that the-” “Including everything?” “Including everything.”
Simply put Twitch has cemented itself as not only a titan of live streaming but exemplifies the ideal esports viewer experience and who knows where the industry would be without it. Well guys that’s our list, and let me tell you this was one of the hardest we’ve put together. If we missed your personal favourite moment in esports history, let us know in the comments and make your argument and I’ll see you next week.