Swedish version

HeatoN: ”Esports will become bigger than football”

av Björn Ehrnberg, Henning Eklund

Once again the time has come for the biggest teams and personalities in esports to travel to Jönköping, and Dreamhack. While the hype might not be what it usually is, an esports legend is looking towards the future with lots of hope.
– The development curve will keep going straight upwards, says Emil ”HeatoN” Christensen to Aftonbladet Esport.

Dreamhack Winter is one again underway. Thousands of gamers are travelling to Jönköping, Sweden, for a weekend filled with gaming. At the same time, some of the best players in the worlds have made the same journey, to compete at the world’s biggest LAN. But the hype is not as big as it usually is during the LAN. In the Counterstrike world, the last major of the year was recently played in Cluj-Napoca. Dota 2 had its first ever major last week, where OG unexpectedly took the win.

About two weeks ago Blizzard arranged its annual Blizzcon, where the best players of Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm and Starcraft played for the world champion-title in each game. With all that being said, the numbers when it comes to players, viewers and prize money in esports, has long been going upwards. According to Emil ”HeatoN” Christensen, that won’t change for a while.
– In time, I believe esports will become bigger than football. With the global rise in technological development, esports will keep growing. Even if it would start to stagnate in Sweden, it would keep getting bigger when the technology becomes better.

With several world champion titles in Counter-Strike, HeatoN is one of Sweden’s most famous and beloved esports celebrities. With experience as a coach, player, owner and founder of Ninjas in Pyjamas, he has seen the phenomenon from all possible angles.
– I’ve made the journey, and I know what it takes, he says.

”Below ones dignity”

Esports exploding in popularity is something you can see in all the recent investments made by for example the Swedish media-giant MTG. With famous investments in ESL and Dreamhack, they have taken the esports scene by storm. At the same time the spread of esports though media changed how people view it, according to HeatoN.
– Media isn’t talking about the ”deadly games” anymore, which makes it more accepted in society as a whole, he says and continues:
– I’ve answered a lot of “ABC-questions”, which maybe really are below one’s dignity, but it has gotten better. When it comes to the attitude from, for example, parents, I can understand that you have a negative point-of-view at something you don’t know about. If you’d just sit down with your playing children for an hour and ask them to explain, your understanding and attitude would probably be much better.

Another example of the growth in esports is the educations that have established themselves in Sweden recently. In addition to that, HeatoN also mentions that NiP has a goal to create youth teams, where the ”esports stars of tomorrow” will have a chance to develop.
– It’s good that the esport gymnasiums also focus on other things than just the playing aspect, like attitudes and exercise. The danger comes if one believes that everyone who attends an esports school will become a pro player. In NiP we have the ambition to create youth and academy teams, just as in normal sports.

Esports has traditionally had a low retirement age, what can be done about that?
– Some things, like reflexes, has to do with age. But for example in NiP, I think our oldest players are the best. Today, you can keep playing even after you turned 30, and for our players in NiP it’s almost certain that they have a future within esports even after they stop playing.

”Will come eventually”

Some people claim that it’s a problem that a lot of the money in esports comes from sponsors. Do you agree?
– No, I don’t, the money has to come from somewhere. I think it’s more of a problem that the sponsors don’t pay as much as they should.

To keep growing, esports will have to attract more women. How will that happen?
– I think it will come eventually. Traditionally, esports has been more of a “guy thing”, and most games have been aimed at a male audience. But at for example at Dreamhack it has gone from one percent women to maybe 10-15 percent now. I don’t think affirmative action would be beneficial, i think gender equality will come eventually.

Looking in to the future, do you think esports will keep growing?
– As society as a whole is becoming more and more digital, it’s natural that sports does too. I genuinely believe that eventually esports will be a bigger sport than football, as technical and economical growth continues globally.



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