Owned: An Intro to Esports

"That would have been a clutch play but they’ve nerf’d D.VA’s ult!" you may hear a young gamer lament if you tune into one of the many Overwatch League games on Twitch.

If that sentence is indecipherable to you, don’t panic, the world of Esports is not nearly as complicated as it seems and if you read on, you’ll learn all the basics you need to know get your brand or agency immersed in the lucrative Esports licensing space.

In many ways, Esports has existed since the invention of video games, starting life in arcades, with players competing for the highest score or flawless Street Fighter win. But it was with the popularisation of online gaming that the Esports scene as we know it began to take shape.

In the ’90s, tournaments for competitive first-person shooters like Quake and Unreal Tournament started to crop up, especially in metropolitan areas of the United States, with some even offering prize money and trophies. Online gaming grew massively in the PS3 and Xbox 360 generation around 2005, as these were the first consoles to launch with online play capabilities built into the systems (not to mention that broadband internet was finally standard for all western homes). Games like Call of Duty 4, Halo 3 and Fifa transformed competitive gaming from a niche pursuit to the most dominant form of gaming, introducing millions of solitary players to a new high-octane world of thrills.

Esports truly hit its stride with the rise of League of Legends. If you care enough about Esports to click this article, the chances are, you already know this name. Developed by Riot Games, League is hands down the most popular esports title in the MOBA genre (multiplayer online battle arena), which sees players facing off in intense battles displayed from a top-down isometric perspective, using various powers, spells and weapons.

The tactical possibilities and options for character customisation in League are what have propelled League to success… oh, and the fact that it’s free.

Yes, the most popular game in esports is completely free to play. Anyone with a PC can get in on the action no matter how casual or hardcore a gamer they are.

League has built on its humble foundations over the course of years, developing a massive player base and thousands of dedicated fans that follow the competitive scene religiously. Over 14.7 million people tuned into the League of Legends World Championship Final in 2016, while the game boasts 30 million active players. With numbers like this, it’s not hard to see why brands, advertisers and licensing agency are clambering over one another to get a piece of the pie.

League’s biggest competitor Dota 2 has perhaps an even more dedicated fanbase. Although it doesn’t boast the sheer numbers of League, the Defense of the Ancients franchise has endured many years of relevance and has a similar gameplay style.

Another game that has stood the test of time is Counter Strike. Debuting on the PC in 1999, Counter Strike has seen numerous iterations over the years, with each one bringing slight variations and nuances to the first person shooter gameplay. The most recent version, Global Offensive, centres around teams of terrorists and counter-terrorists. Terrorists attempt to detonate a bomb whilst the counter-terrorists fight to defuse it in the time limit. The game’s simple and solid mechanics are what has secured its place in the Esports space, as well as its ubiquity amongst PC Gamers.

Arguably the biggest Esport in the world right now is Blizzard’s team-based shooter Overwatch. The immediate appeal of this unique title lies in its cast of unique heroes that form the basis of Overwatch’s explosive matches. Game types generally involve teams utilising their unique abilities to defeat the opposing team and accomplishing a goal such as moving a payload to a destination or taking over bases. The tactical element comes into play with the various heroes who fall into categories such as Offense, Defence, Tank and Support. 

Forming a well-rounded team is the key to success in Overwatch which requires communication, teamwork and skill. This teamwork combined with a visual style that is as colourful as it is unique has propelled the game to the forefront of the Esports scene.

Blizzard recently appointed Daniel Siegel as head of esports licensing, highlighting their commitment to bringing the brand to audiences in markets far and wide. The superb visual flair of Overwatch lends itself perfectly to a licensed product. Kits for the various pro teams are already cropping up with lucrative advertising deals paying out for those who can make it to the top of the leagues. 

Brands such as Jinx have already begun translating Overwatch’s cast of crazy characters to apparel but the potential for licensing is almost endless. 

Of course, the esports scene isn’t limited to just these most popular titles. These days it seems every online game has a crack at the Esports space. Mainstream mainstays like Call of Duty and Halo both have esports scenes, while cult hits like Rainbow Six Seige and Hearthstone continue to maintain dedicated niche fanbases. All of these games have prolonged lifespans and dedicated audiences, making them perfect candidates for licensing support.

But beyond the games there is much more to learn about the world of esports from streaming platforms, to top teams, tournaments, leagues, prizes and more. Don’t miss part two of our Intro to Esports guide, in which we will take a look at the streaming platforms that are bringing the games the masses.

For now refer to our handy glossary of the Esports terms that you really (don’t) need to know…


Buff – When a player character is augmented with power-increasing enhancements. This can include health, strength, defence, speed etc.

Carry – ‘Carrying’ refers to the act of weaker or less skilled player being carried along by their stronger teammates.

Caster – Commentators in esports circles are often called ‘casters’ or ‘shoutcasters’.

Cheese – A cheap or cheesy method of succeeding in a game. These tactics are usually frowned upon and are things that the developer did not intend to be possible, such as manipulating glitches to move through environments.

Cool down – The time it takes for a certain ability to recharge after use.

DPS – Damage Per Second.

GG – Good Game.

Griefing – Intentionally annoying other players.

MOBA – Multiplayer Online Battle Arena.

Nerf – ‘Nerfing’ refers simply to the weakening of a certain character. This is most commonly used when a developer modifies an existing character who they have discovered is unfairly more powerful than others.

Leeeeeroy Jenkins – A meme originating from World of Warcraft. A clip of a group of players went viral as the titular member of the squad discarded his team’s carefully crafted strategy, storming recklessly into the fray, screaming his own name.

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of Licensing.biz and ToyNews. Hutchins has worked his way up from Staff Writer to the position of Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both ToyNews and Licensing.biz, and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing robert.hutchins@biz-media.co.uk or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

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