The term eSports has now entered the mainstream vocabulary as a phrase referring to people playing video games in a competitive environment, usually for cash prizes. Though this sphere’s roots derive from the 1970s and arcades, it was not until the 1990s that it took off. In 1996, California was home to the first highly-publicized Street Fight 2 contest named Battle by the Bay, which later became EVO, and the debut of PC games such as Doom and Quake, around this time, started the rise of video gaming as a global phenomenon. That primarily happened thanks to LAN parties and the internet, allowing people, with ease, to run these contests. Today, this sector has a value of $1.38 billion, and estimations put this industry on track to grow by almost $500 million worldwide in the next two years.
Naturally, since California is the US’ most populous region and its most entertainment-oriented one, it stands to reason that it would have a bustling eSports culture. The state has long been a paradise for video game fanatics, supplying a terrific blend of state-of-the-art competitions to ones boasting nostalgic vibes catering to retro gamers. While many consider LA, the eSports mecca of North America, the spot of the Riot Games’ esports studio, creators of League of Legends, and a famed esports tournament organizer, San Diego, Sacramento, and San Francisco have loads to offer regarding eSports.
Still, we must note that much of the US eSports economy focuses on the LA area since everyone knows Southern California is virtually the heart of this industry. That is so because places like the Santa Clarita Valley are essential hubs for the professional development of Esports, and they feature massive talent pools. However, tax burdens, high costs of living, and the illegality of online gambling in California, as eSports betting is a major driving factor of this sphere, stop this piece of America from reaching its maximum Esports potential.
California’s eSports Programs
It may shock many to learn, but multiple schools in this slice of the US, known for sun, sand, surf, and mountains, have eSports programs. The University of California Irvine (UCI) was the first to create such a thing, birthing it in 2015. A year later, powered by iBUYPOWER, the UCI eSports Arena opened its doors, with this school supplying scholarships to its initial sets of LOL teams.
Cal State Dominguez Hills quickly followed suit in the footsteps of UC Irvine, and by 2021, virtually all of the University of California campuses, and Cal State ones, had similar programs. According to those who founded them, they establish all-inclusive spaces that foster communication, collaboration, and critical thinking that break down barriers among young people. Hence, given that California is probably the most diverse state, it makes sense that it is the perfect location for them.
eSports-Related Companies in California
Team Liquid, founded in 2000 in the Netherlands, is an eSports organization known the globe over as one of the first entities to sign video game competitors to high-end professional deals. Still based in the Netherlands, Team Liquid also has a headquarters in LA’s Alienware Training Facility, and this brand has around sixty premium caliber eSports athletes competing in fourteen games.
Many people need to learn, but the number one video game streaming platform around, Twitch, also operates from California. It has thirteen offices around the US, but its main one is in San Francisco.
The new social media network focusing on eSports lovers, Juked.gg, also runs its operations from the Golden State, and the same holds for its competitor, HQ (Headquarters). Plus, brands like MegaFans, GamerSafer, VY Gaming, Cloud9 Esports, Pwnage, 3BLACKDOT, and The ESL FACEIT Group.
Famed California-Based Teams
There are many, and they come and go. Founded in April 2010, Counter Logic Gaming is one of the more established eSports organizations from Los Angeles, fielding what is likely the oldest active League of Legends team. In April 2023, NRG purchased CLG, which is the creation of the Sacramento Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov, who established NRG in late 2015.
The FaZe Clan got up and running in the same year as CLG, debuting on YouTube in May 2010. Aside from the base in LA, this organization also has an office in New York City, established as a Call of Duty team. Right now, it has competitors ranking high in multiple games, including Super Smash Bros Ultimate and PUBG Mobile.
FlyQuest is another LA organization worth noting, which acquired the Cloud9 LOL roster and has worked with the Milwaukee Bucks. The latter was the byproduct of getting owned by the same entity, the Fortress Investment Group. But now it gets run by the Florida Panthers’ owners, the Viola Family.
Are eSports Events with Cash Prizes Legal in California?
Yes. The Golden State generally does not list skill-based competitions featuring fees and prizes as illicit gambling.
Does California Have an Active eSports Scene?
Yes, it has. It has been booming since the mid-1990s.
What Is the Top California eSports Event?
Per online reviews, it is likely a stage in the Valorant Champions Tour.
To Sum Up
Without question, California is a thriving eSports hub and the US’ most developed one. It houses top-tier competitive teams and cutting-edge facilities, boasts premium contest stages, and is the home base of multiple sector media entities. As this industry grows, its influence will only expand, and it may become one of the planet’s chief eSports centers.