The meteoric rise of e-sports, and what we can expect in 2022


According to The New York Times, athletes are moving in droves away from physical sports and toward their gaming consoles, instead. E-sports are the future of gameplay for many, especially among Generation Z, as participation in youth sports continues to decline. This trend has only sped up over the last couple years, fueled by pandemic lockdowns and lots more solo time inside.

As e-sports continue to gain prominence, what can we expect next? Lucas Stolze, Managing Director of ExitLag—a proprietary gaming software that optimizes internet connection—shared his thoughts.

Prediction 1: The U.S. will rise to European and Asian e-sport standards

Global e-sport revenues surpassed a billion dollars last year, firmly planting e-sports as a key player in both our recreational lives and our global economy. “E-sports is the fastest growing sport on the planet right now,” Stolze says. “And at ExitLag, we predict that it’ll only continue to grow.”

But when compared with its European and Asian counterparts, American e-sports are sorely lacking. “The U.S. gaming scene lags when compared to other regions like Europe and Asia,” Stolze says. “These countries have a higher adoption of e-sports than we do, with big markets for e-sports and competitive tournaments. As we move through 2022, the U.S. is sure to invest resources into catching up to Europe and Asia.”

Though we’re behind, Stolze is sure the American e-sports industry will catch up soon. “We’ll give more attention to e-sports in mainstream media, and e-sports will become part of the U.S. sports conversation in the same way you would talk about soccer or basketball.”

Prediction 2: Colleges and universities will introduce e-sport teams

According to digitaltrends, e-sports are already gaining some traction at the college level. Pace University and the University of Arizona have dedicated e-sports programs, and more than 2,000 students are enrolled in the e-sports program at the State University of New York alone.

For e-sports to really scale, Stolze believes, it’s going to take athletic scholarships—akin to what students might get to play football or golf now. “The adoption of esports into college programs is the next evolution needed for e-sports to really penetrate the mainstream,” Stolze says. “Parents will incentivize their kids to play video games if these games can give them a chance to affordably attend a good college or university. The National Association of Collegiate Esports was founded in 2016 and has already provided more than $16 million in scholarships to more than 5,000 students.”

Now we just need to see that happen at the school level—and according to Stolze, we certainly will.

Prediction 3: An increase in brand sponsorships for e-sport athletes

If e-sports gain recognition, credibility and funding at the collegiate level, that’s sure to have a ripple-effect in the world of brand sponsorships.

“I believe 2022 holds a lot of growth for e-sports,” Stolze says, “especially in regards to investments directed to the gaming industry. These investments will pave the way for further development of companies and partnerships between well-known brands and gaming teams.” 

2020 and 2021 were undeniably big years for e-sports, with the pandemic and people being restricted at home, but 2022 may just be e-sports’ biggest year yet.

“2022 will be a very promising year for competitions especially,” Stolze says. “If pandemic restrictions remain lifted, we’ll see a return of in-person events and tournaments with full crowds. No doubt that’ll create the opportunity for e-sports to appear on major streaming platforms and really make an impact.”