If the e-sports gaming industry wants to go mainstream in the US, have a dedicated TV channel, and make it possible for professional players to make good money, it needs casual fans.
Unfortunately, it won’t get too many.
One reason is the lack of institutionalized exposure. For example, sports are institutionalized in primary education and other parts of US society while video games are not.
The more important reason, however, is the miserable gaming experience for casual gamers.
The gaming community of e-sports games are a nasty bunch to ‘noobs.’ 'Noobs' are mocked in gaming matches (by allies and foes alike) and in gaming messages boards. They’re also routinely crushed (and merciless mocked in the process) by experienced gamers who engage in ‘smurfing’ and ‘pub stomping.’
Upon initial exposure to e-sports games (either through a friend or in single-player mode), most people like them and have fun playing. Then, these 'noobs' go one of two ways when they encounter the barrage of negativity in multiplayer mode. The vast majority simply quit with a bad aftertaste. The few who don’t quit take the time to push through, improve, and move beyond the ‘noob’ stage.
The e-sports scene, consequently, remains small because it almost entirely consists of dedicated gamers who moved past the 'noob' stage. Meanwhile, something rather simple like Angry Birds has gained a massive public following and is able to expand into merchandise and movies because it allows casual gamers to just have fun.
It’s puzzling why many e-sports gamers are so nasty. It can’t entirely be attributed to the anonymity of being online because these gamers act in a similar (but toned down) way in face-to-face settings, even for casual games.
Contrastingly, casual sports games almost never get ugly and it’s completely acceptable for novice players to simply play for fun. Intense and competitive sports matches can get nasty, but at the end, players almost always leave with a gesture of goodwill or respect.
The reason sports games have a more civilized culture is due to the sense of basic sportsmanship that’s instilled by parents, coaches, and other authority figures early in the lives of Americans. Moreover, it’s just socially looked down upon to be a ‘gym class hero’ and a complete jerk in casual sports matches.
These are the norms that keep sports accessible for casual fans. If e-sports wants to go mainstream, it needs similar norms of its own to keep it civilized.