In 2012, total esports revenue stood around $130 million. Take a look at what’s happened since.
Esports revenue worldwide
- 2012 – $130 million
- 2014 – $194 million
- 2015 – $325 million
- 2016 – $493 million
- 2017 – $655 million
Furthermore, Statista estimates this figure will only increase at least until 2021.
Projected future totals
- 2018 – $906 million
- 2019 – $1.187 billion
- 2020 – $1.448 billion
- 2021 – $1.650 billion
Even considering those predictions, is there a time when we will reach a saturation point for esports growth? Are these figures for the continued global expansion realistic, or are they based on figures that may not prove accurate over time?
To answer, we need to consider some of the key factors that will continue to propel the esports industry to new records. Let’s take a look at the key issues that will determine the future of esports for generations to come.
1. Expansion of esports to ‘new’ territories
The first and most obvious key to developing the esports industry worldwide is to expand the current player and fan base. While parts of the globe such as South Korea, North America, mainland Europe, China and other parts of Asia are all in, plenty parts of the world are not.
In many many European and South American countries, Australia, New Zealand, and some African countries like South Africa, the esports industry is still very much developing.
Beyond these emergent nations, there are also many just starting their own esports journey. China, while viewed as a hotbed, still has massive untapped swaths of its population unfamiliar with esports. The same can be said of areas like India, the Philippines, Central America, the Middle East, and Africa.
Part of the issue in many of these countries is the lack of opportunity, ostensibly due to a lack of technology. We’re talking both hardware and connectivity to wireless technology. For many poor people, a PC or console, or even a mobile phone to play, is a pipe dream. However, technology improving and becoming more affordable could meet them halfway.
2. The development of ‘mobile esports’
There’s no doubt a smartphone is often more affordable than a PC or console. As such, there is a huge potential market for mobile esports gaming.
Clash Royale’s developer is already looking at the possibility of developing mobile esports tournaments using their software.
The potential for esports on mobile is also illustrated by the success of Kings of Glory, released by Tencent in China three years back. This mobile-only game had more than 50 million daily active users by 2016 and over 200 million registered. By early 2017, the game had over 160 million active daily users and had become the highest grossing mobile game in the world. It made an estimate half billion dollars every month by the summer of 2017.
The key to the massive popularity of the game, as well as solid game design, was simply that it was easily accessible and playable on a mobile device.
Many esports companies are now looking at mobile gaming as a way to increase the options within the industry. This part of the market could develop hugely in the next 3-5 years.
3. Improvements in technology
Although often overlooked, critical to the success of esports has been the development of technologies that power it. That means not only the computers and consoles used to play the games but also the software itself. Of course, the speed of internet access will also improve.
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While today’s speeds far outstrip those in the early days, lagging issues still affect many gamers. It’s a barrier to them becoming more engaged in esports, especially in those developing countries we mentioned previously.
While the current technological infrastructure for esports is adequate for the time being, the search for even faster speeds to transmit even more data is crucial.
4. Media coverage
At the moment, esports very much remains a fringe industry in terms of the mainstream press in many countries. However, that is changing.
In recent times, there have been more reports about esports in national presses. In the UK, for one, the industry is gaining greater exposure through terrestrial TV. Recently, Sky Sports dedicated prime time coverage on a Saturday afternoon to the FIFA eWorld Cup tournament. BBC Three is also getting in on the act by covering esports.
So the money is there, but will broader cultural acceptance follow? These four key factors mean the industry still has plenty of potential growth ahead.