The eSports economy is expected to grow to $696 million, a year-on-year growth of 41.3% and the global eSports audience is expected to reach 385 million in 2017. Total prize money in 2016 reached $93.3 million, up from $61.0 million in 2015. According to Sports Illustrated, in 2016, eSports events sold out Key Arena in Seattle, Nationwide Arena in Columbus, the Staples Center in Los Angeles and Madison Square Garden in New York. The purse for the Seattle event, The International Dota 2 Championship, was $20,770,460, which Sports Illustrated points out is roughly double the total payout of The Masters. In 2017, major eSports competitions have been scheduled across North America, Europe, South Korea, and China, to name a few, making eSports truly international.
eSports is surging and whether or not esports professionals are appropriately considered “athletes” is hotly debated. One of the reasons this debate matters is because if they aren’t athletes, they don’t qualify for P-1 visas. And if they don’t qualify for P-1 visas, it can be very difficult for these professionals to travel to the U.S. to participate in major competitive events.