Few sectors have enjoyed the explosion of growth that eSports has over the past ten years or so. The industry is booming at present, with the only hit that the sector has taken coming from the impacts of COVID-19. Still, even then, there were areas where the sector continued to boom, as players could continue competing from their comfort of their own home.
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The sector is already reportedly worth over $1 billion, with huge numbers of fans selling out arenas and stadiums to watch competitions. That was evident last year, where the final of League of Legends generated more than £5 million in prize money, and was watched simultaneously by over 14 million people around the globe.
Viewership Continues To Grow
One of the biggest indicators that the sector looks set to continue to grow over the coming years is that the viewership is steadily improving yet again. That is highlighted by the figures since 2018. By 2019, viewership had increased by 12.3% over a year, with over 200 million occasional viewers. However, there was a solid foundation in place, with over 195 million enthusiasts watching the competition. That continued to grow by 2020 figures, with over 220 million occasional viewers and 215 million that were watching on a regular basis.
The overall audience from those to examples jumped from 397 million to 435 million, and that has only continued based on the figures from last year. Based on 2021 figures, there were 240 million occasional spectators and over 234 million watching on a regular basis to amass a total eSports viewership of 474 million. Based on those trends, it would be easy to see where the stats are going to be in 2022 and 2023, and so on.
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In fact, recent stats have showed that there is expected to be a near 8% increase in viewership in eSports between 2019 and 2024, which means that it could be a matter of time before the sector is closing in on a 600 million viewership, which is something that very few other sports manage to achieve on a regular basis.
Brand & Other Sports Tapping Into Sector
Like most other businesses, onlookers have seen the success that eSports has been achieved, and want to get in on the action themselves. We have seen a number of occasions that a vast variety of brands are able to get involved with what the sector is doing, and that has been especially successful with Betway. Last September, the huge gambling company took their first steps into the sector, as they signed a money-spinning six-figure deal with respected team Ninjas in Pyjamas.
Those that follow the action would have seen that team members now see the betting company logo splashed across the front of their shirt, while Betway also has exclusive content usage rights for the matches in which the team are in action, which will ensure that supporters of the team will join Betway in order to watch the action.
It isn’t just betting companies that have looked to get involved in the action either, as there have been a number of examples in recent years of football teams branching into the eSports market. Manchester City first joined the second in 2019 as they partnered with FaZe Clan, while Bayern Munich, AS Roma and Besiktas have also all branched into the eSports sector in one way or another. PSG were one of the first big football teams to get involved with eSports, as they brought into the industry back in 2016, with one of their players winning the FIFA World Championships the following year. Since then, the team have improved its presence in Asia, and have formed teams in games such as DOTA 2 and LGD.
Awareness Continues To Increase
One of the main reasons for the progressive growth in the sector has been down to the fact that eSports continues to attract new players and fans, as awareness grows. It has come a staggeringly long way since 2015, as back then only 800,000 fans had heard of the second. Two years later and the awareness had risen to over a billion, before the two billion threshold was passed in 2020. Much of the rise has come in China, but it’s quickly spreading across the rest of the world.
The future continues to look bright for the sector, and in truth, it is very hard to see where the glass ceiling could potentially be. Rumours have only sped up over the past couple of years that the competition could be included on the Olympic programme, with the IOC last year admitting that it releases the growth that has been made within the second. Paris 2024 were the first hosts to attempt to add the sport to the Olympic programme, but they will by no means be the last.
In truth, it only seems a matter of time before we will be seeing eSports as an Olympic sport, and it will be fascinating to see the stance that Milan, Los Angeles and Brisbane have when it comes to eSports, as the cities host the respective Olympics in 2026, 2028 and 2032.