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Blog: The Evolution Of Electronic Sports

Electronic sports have gained lots of popularity throughout the past years. Thank you covid… esport is one of little sports that can be played without any physical contact. You have a computer and headset, reliable internet connection and a controller (or keyboard for the die-hards) and you love gaming in a professional way? Then you’re probably one of them. But where does this sport actually come from? Before we explain the pure history of one of the most eccentric sports in the world, we should start by not being mistaken about its name. Numerous names have been considered correct. But at the end, only one of them is truly correct. 

Tennis for two, a game developed by William Higinbotham in 1958.

1950 - 1959

You might think that esport arose in the 80’s, after the birth of the Personal Computer, or as we call it, PC. But we gave a hint in the title. The history starts in the 50’s. back in that time, Popular games such as “Nim”, “Tic Tac Toe”, chess and checkers were popular and used amongst owners of computers of their time. 


But the very first game, ever to be played on those devices was “Tennis For Two”. When having two “controllers” and two players, you were able to compete against each other in a digital way. This game was invented in the late 50’s by an American. The game was to be played on an Oscillograph Most popular game in the 50’s: Tennis For Two

1960 - 1969

As a new decade came, more great minds arose with the thought of developing a real videogame. Spacewars! Was the first ever “real” videogame that was made by students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A first version of the game consisted of two spaceships that could fire objects through space in order to eliminate its enemy (another spaceship, meaning you competitor).In 1962, a second version was created. Now, the spaceships orbited in space with a centralized magnetic field pulling them towards it.


 Stars and explosion were also introduced into the game. It was so popular that in a split second, the game was played by all people that were in the possession of this PDP-1 device. Most popular game in the 60’s: Spacewars!

Spacewars! was developed in 1961 on the PDP-1 by Steve Russel a.o. Picture by Kenneth Lu
The Magnavox Odyssey

1970 - 1979

It was in the seventies that the videogaming industry became much more known by many people. Not only videogames, but also arcade games were born. It was in 1972 when Ralph Bear had the brilliant idea of developing the first ever video gaming console to be used at home. It bore the name “Magnavox Odyssey”.


Also during these times, Nolan Bushnell developed a coin-operated device for playing Spacewar!, known as an arcade game. Meanwhile, the Magnavox Odyssey became extremely popular until 1975, when the production of the Magnavox Odyssey was replaced by its big brother, Magnavox Odyssey 2.For these consoles, 28 games were developed. 


One of them was a Ping-Pong game, not to be mistaken by “Pong”, which was in fact based on this first Ping Pong game for the Magnavox. It was Atari who developed “Pong” and paid 100s of millions of Dollars for doing so. But “Pong” was the very first arcade game that became known worldwide.

Because of the great success of the game, many companies tried competing against each other for introducing the game on a user-friendly gaming console. A console that ought to be better and more accessible than the Magnavox Odyssey. It was Coleco, an American company, that bought the “Pong-chip” and created consoles to play it. This console was the Telstar. The company sold millions of consoles. 


The success was so great, that they sold them in multiple continents all over the world. In the late 70’s, Fairchild introduced the Fairchild Channel F, a second-generation console that effectuated a new rise in the market. This was needed after the market came crashing down after the saturation of the market. The new console was sold with ROM cartridges (which have known the evolution to what we now know as the CD-ROM). The real Personal Computer was also introduced in the 70’s. 


But unfortunately, due to the fact that it was a very rare product to be owned by very little people and the technology was still far from easy to work with, the success was postponed. Even then, games did exist for the PC. Does Space Invaders or Donkey Kong ring any bells? Most popular game in the 70’s: Pong

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Super Mario Bros

Not only were arcades, new consoles and PC’s being made, a new thing called online gaming started in the 80’s. With yet again a new term, namely internet (yes, the same one you’re on right now), there was a new aspect added to games that exists until today. The first online games were Blackjack and Maze War. In 1983, the console market (yes you read it absolutely right) plummeted again for the Fourth time or so. The reason was the large amount of cheap, low-quality consoles. 


The perfect moment for Nintendo and Sega to strike. It was Nintendo who conquered the market with a new, third-generation console called “NES”. The same producer of the world’s most famous game of all times, Mario Bros. We should not forget to include our dear friend, the Game Boy, which was introduced in 1989 by Nintendo. Most popular games in the 80’s (we didn’t want to break any hearts, so here are some of many): Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Tetris and Super Mario Bros. 

1980 - 1989

Whoever saw the serie “Stranger Things”, which is situated in the 80’s, knows that this decade is all about the arcade games. The Arcade is the reason many people believe the 80’s to be The Golden Years. 


In the very beginning of the 80’s, consoles were produced to be operated by coins. Many games were developed in short notice and became extremely popular. The market made a jump from 300 millions of Dollars to a staggering 3 billion in 1980.


Also, PC games became popular during the golden years, after the production of the Apple 2 and other user-friendly computers. They even grew stronger then consoles for a while, because that market was yet again saturated by the amount of consoles being sold without any innovations going with them. 

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Mortal Kombat

1990 - 1999

The games and consoles became more and more sophisticated in the 90’s. Games were innovative and consisted of 3D graphics. Nevertheless, the success knew some pitfalls. There were controversial opinions about the quite aggressive games such as Mortal Kombat and Doom. Many more games evolved from 2D to 3D. Because of games like Virtua Fighter and Virtua Racer, PlayStation changed its focus from 2D to 3D. Because of this, there was no need for people to go play in the arcade, since PlayStation made these games for people at home. In 1994, the first PlayStation was released to the public. Other popular console at that time were the Sega Saturn and Nintendo 64. Therefore, 3D became unimaginably popular. People were even able to play using joysticks and steering wheels. New Consoles kept being launched. SEGA had difficulties to compete against them and decided to, from then on, only develop software. Most popular games in the 80’s (we didn’t want to break any hearts, so here are some of many): The Legend of Zelda, Sonic the Hedgehog, Mortal Kombat, Virtua Racing, Doom, Final Fantasy, etc.


2000 - 2009

As the years had gone by, the gaming industry was showing no signs of deacceleration. Whilst PC and consoles knew it’s evolution, also music video games became popular. If you ever visited an arcade, you must’ve seen the Dance Dance Revolution. Yes the one with the arrows! Your feet need to land on the correct arrow at the correct time. Same goes for Guitar Hero. The actual reason of the success of music video games.When Nintendo decided to keep the ROM cartridges (because they were faster and more durable), successful games such as Final Fantasy were developed. These were on CD and therefor, PlayStation was able to get a contract with the game. Since then, PlayStation was the best console out there. Today, we also know Xbox, who is Sony’s main competitor.The rising importance of 3D was the reason why PlayStation ultimately switched from regular controllers to controllers with joysticks, as they were produced by NES in earlier times. In these years of success and the upcoming new and fun games, there was something else that arose. Lan-party’s! The better internet connection made it able for more and more people to come together to play games online, on a far more stable connection. Until today, LAN-party’s are being held.  

Most popular games in the 00’s (we didn’t want to break any hearts, so here are some of many):Counterstrike, The Sims, Tony Hawk’s, Final Fantasy, GTA, Star Wars, Metal Gear Solid, Guitar Hero, Resident Evil, Hitman, Fallout, Assassin’s Creed, etc...

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The international 9

2010 - 2019

During the second last decade, the producers kept on surprising the market with consoles. It was Nintendo who reached the market in 2012 with the eight-generation console, the Wii U. Other devices in this generation are the Nintendo 3D2, PS Vita, PS 4, Nintendo Switc, etc.From now on, the name Esports is more and more seen as a real sport. Believe it or not, on hour of gaming equals 100 burned calories. 


A lot more gamers played competition with a lot more a fans watching, playing for a price which became a lot bigger. The biggest price to be ever won, was for the winner of the International 9, with the game Dota 2. They have a staggering 34 million dollars as the price. 


Most popular games in the 10’s (we didn’t want to break any hearts, so here are some of many):: Skyrim, Minecraft, Super Mario, The Walking Dead, GTA, Destiny, The Last of Us, Overwatch, Fifa, Fortnite, Bastion, Batman, Battlefield, CoD, Dark Souls, Deus Ex, Diablo, Doom, Fallout, Heavy Rain, PUBG, etc.

2020 - ...

Until today, esporters are seen as real sporters. Anywhere in the world, events are held for different games. The same goes for Belgium. At the moment, on a national level, we count around 4,2 million gamers and 1 million fans.

Almost half of our population can be seen as gamer (and 24% pays for games). But when are you an esporter? Sports is something that is done in competition. In the same way, you’re an esporter if you play competitions where you win (money or not). 


Many people doubt whether esports is an actual sport, “because they only play games whole day lang”. Professional esporters often follow extreme and heavy trainings. Sometimes they train 8 hours a day, have coaches, watch their nutrition and sleep as long as possible. Definitely before a game.  


In Belgium, the success of esport events isn’t as popular as it’s neighbours. We know several competitions as the ESL Proximus Championship, Proximus ePro League, Gameforce Masters, Kayzr League, Riv4l League and the E(C)-CUP. Most popular games in the 20’s: We’re just as curious as you are!

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E(C)-CUP tries to put Belgian Esports on the worldwide map. Picture by E(C)-CUP2021

info@ec-cup.eu