The official eSports tournaments for Riot Games' League of Legends are now officially recognised as a professional sport by the U.S. State Department.
This means that League of Legends players born outside of the U.S. will be able to live and work in America under the same visa as any other pro-sports player. Riot Games has claimed that the change is the end of a "long process" during which it had to prove that eSports was a viable and lucrative career path.
"This is a watershed moment," said Riot's VP of eSports Dustin Beck, in an interview with Polygon. "It validates eSports as a sport.
"Now we have the same designation as the NBA or NHL or other professional sports leagues. This opens the gates for other professional League of Legends players to make the transfer to U.S. teams. It's like David Beckham coming to LA Galaxy."
The first "Devid Beckham" will be Danny "Shiptur" Le, who will leave his native Canada to join the U.S.-based Team Coast. At present, only players in Riot's official tournament series are eligible for professional status.
League of Legends has proved to be a catalyst for the growth of gaming as a competitive sport. An All-Star event in Shanghai in May saw 18 million unique viewers, and Beck claimed that its viewer figures are higher than, "80 or 90 per cent of the sports covered on ESPN."
In an interview with GamesIndustry International last year, Riot Games' co-founder and CEO Brandon Beck stated his belief that eSports would be an Olympic event in his lifetime.
"It's important for companies to not just say they're excited about e-sports, but to actually make commitments: from a development standpoint and from a financial standpoint," he said. "These players have to make a massive commitment to become pro-athletes, so there has to be a viable career path for that to grow into anything."