Competitors lookCompetitors look on during the Madden NFL 17 showdown on Saturday, Sept 10. (Brooks Harvey) on during the Madden NFL Showdown on Saturday, Sept 10. (Brooks Harvey/Ryersonian)

Competitors look on during the Madden NFL 17 showdown on Saturday, Sept 10. (Brooks Harvey)

Toronto’s Madden NFL 17 showdown on Sept. 10 had all the hallmarks of a regular football game but there was one noticeable difference: the tournament’s 64 contestants were playing on Xbox.

The tournament, hosted at the CF Toronto Eaton Centre’s Microsoft store, was organized by Canadian Gaming Tournaments to coincide with the start of this year’s NFL season. In addition to a $500 cash prize, there was also a limited edition Xbox One up for grabs. The popularity of this tournament is just one example of the growing business of eSports.

“As the younger generation becomes more prevalent and controls most of the purchasing power and older people retire, eSports will probably turn into a mainstream industry, “ said Kyle Yancan, chief investment officer of Ryerson’s Capital Markets Group, which teaches students about investing and financial markets.

According to Deloitte’s annual technology trend forecast for 2016,  it’s estimated that eSports will generate $500 million in revenue globally this year. That’s an increase of 25 per cent from the previous year.

Thunderous hits and in-game trash talking

At the Madden competition, players sat side-by-side, dressed in their favourite team’s jersey.

Bottles of water and extra controllers were stacked on a nearby table. More than 30 spectators crowded into the store to get a glimpse of the action, comprised of more than six hours of elimination rounds. There was even a referee in attendance, clad in the traditional black and white stripes.

The event’s champion, Rob Gambino, 28, said he planned to spend his first bit of the prize money on food. He was famished after hours of intense gaming.

Layne Schemez, 24, was the event’s runner-up.

“This was my third Madden [tournament] and I came in second place all three years,” said Schemez, who lost to Gambino in the final for a second straight year.

This was the first of seven eSports tournaments that will be hosted by Microsoft before November.

eSports: the way of the future

“You’ll see people with eSports-dedicated TV channels and stuff like that in the future,” predicts Yancan, a gaming enthusiast himself.

“A lot of people in the investment community are an older demographic — 30s, 40s, 50s – and they might find it difficult to comprehend the idea of watching someone play video games.”

He’s confident that more people will soon understand the draw of eSports as a form of entertainment.

“You sit there and watch people play football; I sit there and watch someone play Halo or Counter Strike:GO or whatever,” stressed Yancan. “At the end of the day, what’s the difference?”

Born and raised on the west coast. Undergraduate at Ryerson University, school of journalism. Reports about video gaming and eSports.

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