Could Rugby League Become An eSports Event?


Ardent fans of rugby league and video games don’t have the luxury of more popular global sports that get their hands on a new, updated gaming release every year. NFL Madden, FIFA, and NBA 2K are games that have colossal advertising, development, and endorsement budgets. It’s a simple case of supply and demand. Simply put, these sports are in much greater demand than rugby league, which is why there’s a more extensive and consistent supply of games. However, some great rugby league video games have existed throughout this century. With a new game scheduled for the midpoint of this decade, some fans are intrigued to see whether a professional eSports tournament or league could be on the cards in the near future.


Challenges Faced In eSports

Although the name might throw you off the scent if you’re unfamiliar with professional video gaming, eSports refers to electronic sports, including sports games and all other popular tournaments. For instance, first-person shooter games like Counter-Strike 2 and arena games like Dota 2 are the most popular eSports, but they aren’t sports games per se. However, NBA 2K, Madden, and FIFA are popular eSports tournaments where gamers battle with their favorite sporting teams.


Despite the mindblowing success of these underlying industries, sports video gaming plays second fiddle to the top eSports games. Dota 2, Counter-Strike 2, Valorant, and League Of Legends blow any sports game out of the water in terms of popularity, prize pool, and audience size. These three components are the most effective when determining the top eSports games and tournaments. So, the popularity of a sport doesn’t always correlate with how popular the video game is; video gamers will seek out titles that engage and grip them, and playability is the most crucial factor.


Big Ant Studios is the most prominent name in rugby league video gaming, and they’ll be eager to ensure the proposed 2025 release of Rugby League Live 5 is just as gripping for rugby league fans as it is for casual sports fans and gamers.


Another challenge that video game designers face is that they simply don’t have the budget to compete with some of the larger sports games, which have expensive endorsement contracts with the big names within their sport – so a lesser budget means less time, resources and scope for development, which can hinder the final product. With several competitors, there’s also the consideration of which game would feature in the tournament. Choosing one when many are on the market wouldn’t be an open and closed case.

Rugby League Popularity

If there are enough people intrigued by the next big rugby league video game release, then there is a potential for eSports tournament organizers to make money. Ultimately, this is what it boils down to. Prominent games in eSports generate colossal revenue, so there’s a market and onus to host as many tournaments as possible, and up to now, that appetite hasn’t been there for rugby league games.


Rugby union is another tricky fork in the road to navigate. Although rugby league is popular in gaming cultures like the United Kingdom, traditional countries that prefer oval-ball-shaped games tend to opt for union, which again dilutes the market. New Zealand is dominated by rugby union, with the country still reeling from their narrow World Cup Final loss. Millions of potential gamers will probably not be interested in the market, so it’s a tricky road to navigate effectively.

Chances Of An eSports Tournament?

At the moment, we’d say it’s slim. Boxing games are a good example of the appetite for niche sports; rugby league is in a similar boat with a shorter supply and no eSports tournaments. On a global scale, that’s what rugby league is in comparison to the likes of basketball and soccer, and it’ll take a herculean effort to propel a rugby league game that is so revered and entertaining that it can challenge stalwart professional eSports such as League Of Legends or Dota 2.


One positive that could eventually culminate in a rugby eSports league is that professional video gaming is a growing market. When an industry continues to generate profit and news headlines, it inevitably brings in fresh ideas, and people looking to capitalize on the potential profit will aim for niche, undiscovered areas of the market, a bracket that rugby league eSports currently falls into.


Australia will be the best bet for a rugby league eSports tournament. It is a country with millions of gamers and rugby league fans. It’s also where the majority of rugby league games are sold. So if the next Big Ant Studios release is a triumph and results in a sharp spike in the numbers of people looking to play competitively, we may see the first eSports rugby league tournament down under. Still, we’d say at the moment, there just isn’t a market that makes it financially viable.