Every day, millions of people work up a sweat – but not at the gym, rather in front of their screen. The strategic demands of gaming require quick decision-making, intuition, brainpower and perseverance. Almost everything that a traditional sport demands.
It can really pay off: In Asia and the US, audiences fill whole stadiums to watch pro gamers. The winners of big eSports tournaments get cash prizes, in some instances worth millions, as well as the spotlight on them. And soon Olympic medals will be on the cards, perhaps even at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles 2028.
The five most popular games
Right now eSports mainly consist of five games: The strategy game “Defense of the Ancients” (Dota2) in which two teams of up to five players go up against each other, the first-person shooter “Counter Strike,” the multiplayer strategy game “League of Legends” (LoL), the real time strategy game “StarCraft” – which is very popular in South Korea – and, finally, the well-known football simulation game “Fifa.”
Above all, it’s the football game that divides sporting spirits: Football fans of the Berner Young Boys and the FC Basel protested when their teams wanted to be involved in eSport. Fans suddenly started throwing tennis balls onto the pitch at a game between the two teams in Bern.
Who are the stars?
The Swiss Super League Clubs Basel and St. Gallen have eSports teams that compete in club colors in the screen-version of the Fifa game. The FCB eSports team consists of four pro gamers. There are two Germans, an Argentinian – and Luca “LuBo” Boller from Meggen. He is Switzerland’s first Swiss Fifa professional.
Still, the electronic divisions of FC St. Gallen and the FCB are the exception. However, the Swiss Football Association and the League are working on setting up an E-League. Clubs like Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Schalke are an example for Basel and St. Gallen, as they'll soon have just as many fans of their eSports teams as they do for their teams that play on the pitch. Their stars are no longer Neymar, Mbappé, etc., but MSDossary, Katnawatos – and of course Luca Boller.
Gaming as a career
Right now, gaming is only a career prospect for a select few Swiss people. But this could change. Experts predict that eSports has enormous commercial potential. Recently, Swisscom and the digital games promoter ESL started a Swiss eSports League, the “Swisscom Hero League powered by ESL” with the aim of supporting professional gaming.
“By 2020, eSports could generate around 1.5 billion Swiss francs,” states the Head of the Sports Business Group of the consulting network Deloitte Stefan Ludwig in a study. Turnover in the German market is expected to be around 130 million euros. In Germany, this is already having political consequences: the new federal government is committed to supporting eSports.
In Switzerland, we haven’t gone that far yet. However, eSports also has potential to generate millions here over the long-term. Luca Boller may not be the only Fifa pro gamer for much longer ...