The eSports industry has seen tremendous growth over the years, both in terms of viewership and revenue. The increasing viewership is what mainly contributed to the revenue growth – and it’s not just because those viewers are generating revenue. Seeing the potential of reaching a large and engaged audience, brands are investing in eSports marketing, both directly and indirectly. This has contributed to rapid revenue growth in the industry, only slowed down by COVID limiting large public eSports events.
ESports has also experienced growth in several other aspects, with many of them interrelated in one way or another. In this post, you will learn more about just how much the eSports industry is growing so you can understand how to leverage it.
eSports Viewership is Growing
Since 2016, there has been a significant increase in eSports viewers – both occasional viewers and enthusiasts, i.e., viewers who watch it regularly. Between 2018 and 2019, there was a 12.3% increase year over year. In 2019, there were 245 million casual viewers and 198 million enthusiasts, making the total audience 443 million.
By Feb 2020, the year-over-year growth rate had slightly dropped to 11.7%, although that’s still a sizable increase. In 2020, there were 272 million occasional viewers and 223 million enthusiasts. So, the total audience size grew to 496 million, almost half a billion eSports followers.
By 2023, It is predicted that the annual growth rate will be approximately 10.4%. They also expect that the number of casual viewers will grow to 351 million. And that there will be 295 million eSports enthusiasts, making the total audience 646 million. The total audience for eSports in Europe was 79 million in 2018, growing to 86 million in 2019 and 92 million in 2020.
As you can see, there has been a steady growth in eSports viewership, and the trend is likely to continue in the coming years. The increase isn’t just limited to dedicated eSports fans; there also seems to be an increase in people who view it casually. This is likely a result of increasing awareness about eSports and ease of access to the internet.
Also, viewing platforms like Twitch and YouTube have seen growth in their users. That’s another contributing factor to eSports audience growth. You will learn more about these factors later on in this post. However, there is one proviso regarding expectations of future growth. The above predictions for future growth were made before COVID had such an impact on the world.
eSports Awareness is Increasing
One of the main reasons why there has been growth in eSports viewership is because more people are learning about it. There has been a tremendous rise in awareness of the eSports industry since 2015. Back then, there were slightly more than 800,000 people who had heard about it. These numbers soon changed, and by the next year, more than a billion people had learned about eSports.
These numbers continued to increase in the following years, by a few hundred thousand annually. By 2017, eSports awareness had risen to 1.28 billion, and it reached 1.43 billion by 2018. Statista doesn’t appear to have continued recording these figures since then, but they predicted that by 2019, an estimated 1.57 billion people were likely to be aware of eSports.
The global awareness of eSports in 2019 was actually 1.8 billion, and they expected this to rise to 2.0 billion in 2020. The market expects that 530.4 million of these will be Chinese.
So what does this increase in viewership and awareness mean for Football Clubs and brands? For the most part, it says that they have a new channel to target in their marketing mix. It also says that they have more people to reach within the eSports industry. So, eSports marketing will help them expand their reach and deliver their marketing messages through engaging channels.
The rise of Platforms Offering Live eSports Coverage
It’s no surprise that more people watch eSports videos and events considering how online platforms now make watching eSports content more accessible. eSports streamers use these platforms to broadcast live coverage of events and their own gameplay. This makes it easier for fans to participate in their favourite events and engage with their preferred eSports athletes.
So, you can see an increase in the number of viewers and broadcasters on these platforms as well. Although not all the viewers and broadcasters on these platforms are relevant to the eSports industry, this increase still likely affects the industry.
People are Spending More Time Watching eSports
Audiences watched over 7.46 billion hours of content across all live-streaming platforms in Q3 2020, slightly down from Q2’s 7.71 billion hours. Surprisingly, considering its fall in market share, YouTube Gaming experienced the most growth for hours watched with an increase of 156M hours from Q2 to Q3. Facebook Gaming exceeded 1 billion hours watched for the first time.
However, although Q3 2020 saw a small drop in hours viewed, it still represents a 91.8% increase on the 3.89 billion hours watched in Q3 2019.
Every week it seems a new football club is investing in its own branded esports team and this August is no exception, as clubs race to establish esports teams before the next version of FIFA is released in September.
The snowball effect began in 2015, when VfL Wolfsburg entered the stage with the first FIFA player ever representing a traditional sports team. In the last week, Wolverhampton Wanderers became the latest to launch a clan. Infront’s partner SV Werder Bremen also recently began their esports journey with STARK eSports at the recent FIFA eWorld Cup as MoAubameyang topped his group before going out at the quarter-final stage of the biggest FIFA esports event we have ever seen.
More shrewd organisations – including the likes of PSG, Manchester City and many American franchises – have recognised that esports can complement classic sport in a variety of ways.
If you look away from football and towards F1, McLaren’s esports competition is a good example of positive tangible results, with the winner becoming the team’s official simulator driver. Ben Payne, McLaren’s Director of Esports, even highlighted how the skills can be interchangeable, adding that they “are transferable to the real world.