Boston Becoming Major Player in Rapidly Growing eSports Industry

According to Insider Intelligence, in 2022, viewers in the U.S. totaled around 30 million and climbing

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If you're not familiar with eSports, it's turning online gaming into a spectator sport and it's growing at a rapid pace.

The franchises have owners, general managers, multiple coaches and of course the players competing for big bucks, with billions of views online and in packed stadiums. Boston is becoming a major player in all this, and even Robert Kraft is getting in on the game.

"It’s very easy to dismiss video games as a childish pastime that people do," Murph Vandervelde, co-founder and chairman at Oxygen Esports said.

Vandervelde founded Oxygen Esports with Jack Vandervelde, and the duo also happen to own a couple of Boston teams.

Corporations and worldwide online reach made esports into the billion-dollar industry it is today. But long before there were seven-figure prize pools for being good at Fortnite, groups of highly skilled, competitive gamers were traveling all across the country and duking it out in Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter - after getting their start in arcades and New York bodegas. NBCLX Storyteller Eric Rodriguez spoke to several competitive fighting game players including Twitch streamer IFC YipeS to show you how esports began.

"Obviously there is an incredible rich culture of winning and success so it’s a great place to start a team," Jack Vandervelde said.

That winning culture is something that's no stranger to Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who is just one of a number of high profile people investing millions into eSports. In 2021, Kraft Sports merged with Oxygen and its two franchises, including Boston Breach.

“We see it as a great opportunity and what I like about it more than anything is that it’s a way to connect globally," Kraft told CNBC.

Denholm “Denz” Taylor is a retired Call of Duty eSports player, but is now the general manager of Boston Breach.

"When I used to play it was, once again, for like a pat on the back, a hand shake, you know a couple hundred bucks," he said. "I’m handing contracts worth a quarter of a million dollars, half a million dollar deals just for players, so it’s pretty crazy how far it’s come."

eSports traces back to the 1970s and gained momentum in the early 2000s, but now, it's next level. According to Insider Intelligence, viewers in the U.S. totaled around 30 million and climbing in 2022. eSports will generate nearly $1.4 billion in revenues globally.

“I’ve been competing professionally for over 10 years." Anthony “Methodz” Zinni of Boston Breach said. "So I’ve see it go from local tournaments in hotel ballrooms to filling out stadiums.”

There was a packed house at the MGM Music Hall this past weekend, with more than 10,000 fans of the Call of Duty league attending the first time Boston hosted the major event.

"It’s been pretty sick representing Boston, because I know Boston is just a bunch of winners so you always just want to win around here," Dylan “Nero” Koch of Boston Breach said.

Boston Breach finished at fifth and sixth place.

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