eSports goes mainstream

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Forget about football, there is another sport that's booming in the Bay Area and you don't even have to get off the couch to play it.

From living rooms to arenas and bars to ballrooms, the number of people playing competitive video games is blowing up.

The World of Electronic, or eSports, is attracting big crowds and big money all over the Bay Area.

Players, also known as broadcasters, then compete live online with many of them on the website Twitch.

Emmet Shear is a co-founder of San Francisco-based Twitch. "We have dozens of broadcasters now making six figures," Shear said.

The company started in 2012 and now boasts 1.7 million broadcasters who play games live on the Internet.

The audience is even bigger, with more than 100 million visitors tuning-in to watch. So many, Twitch is now the fourth largest user of peak-time Internet bandwidth. "We are in many ways the place where professional E-sports is discovered, but at the same time we are this place where players, commentators, directors, tournament organizers can come together and practice and get an audience and share what they love," Shear said.
Twitch supports the most popular players by giving them a cut for each subscriber who pays to watch them play.

Renee Reynosa is making enough to call it a full time job. She streams at least four hours a day, Monday through Friday.

Reynosa who goes by the screen name "Lolrenaynay" said: "I make enough to support myself in the east bay which is saying a lot. I am very fortunate and very grateful."

She is now part of a growing community. E-sporting events are fostering a growing social and competitive scene too. Hundreds of people show up several nights a week to play video games at the foundry in San Francisco's South of Market district.

Competitor, Anthony Detres, said, "The competitive aspect of e-sports is probably my favorite and that's why i am here today."

CJ Scaduto runs ShowDown Sports who puts on the event. "We just celebrate the gaming industry or just having fun and doing something that you could potentially do at home but, why not go out, grab a beer with some friends and celebrate together," Scaduto said.

Chances are you have a gamer in your house. The gaming industry said 67 percent of all households play video games. The average player spends eight hours a week glued to the screen.

At a competition at the San Jose Convention Center, thousands of people pay as much as $100 to compete and watch. "Five years ago this was nothing - and now every year growing like, I think exponentially, it's getting bigger, bigger, and bigger, it's not get any smaller," competitor Daniel Ortiz said.

Another former competitor, Winton Smith, said, "Everyone here, it doesn't matter if you are the best in the world, or it's your first tournament ever, you have a chance to show what you've got."

Of roughly 4000 attendees, nearly half are here to compete in one game, Super Smash Brothers Melee.

German Roverso is the organizer of the event, "This event is unique because it is all only smash brothers, he said, "So everyone in this room plays smash brothers," he said.

These games are just like any sporting event. There are commentators, big screens, all broadcasted on Twitch.

So, you might ask, who would want to watch someone else play a video game?

"It's the same reason you might want to watch someone go cook on the cooking channel. It's the same reason you might want to watch someone play sports. You want to watch people who are good at what they do, and gaming is definitely a passion for people," Shear said.

And potentially profitable too, tournament winners can fill their pockets. The prizes are in the tens of thousands of dollars, not to mention bragging rights.

Written and Produced by Ken Miguel.
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