The company forecasts that “eSports will generate global revenues of $500 million in 2016, up 25 percent from about $400 million in 2015, and will likely have an audience of regular and occasional viewers of close to 150 million people.”
“eSports: bigger and smaller than you think”
In the past, there have been other data research companies issuing reports on the future of eSports, most reputable of which are probably companies Newzoo and SuperData. Additionally, Eilers Research issued a report covering eSports betting that also touched on the broader market size for eSports.
However, this is the first time that a well-known international conglomerate joins in the eSports analysis game and the results do deviate between these companies.
For example, Newzoo’s forecast was that the eSports industry will generate $465 million in 2017, while SuperData predicted a global market of above 1 billion in 2016.
“People often under-estimate the global annual market size as being in the millions of dollars only. Conversely, eSports advocates overestimate the current market size, believing annual revenues are already in the billions, and comparable to major league sports,” Duncan Stewart, Director of research at Deloitte Canada and co-author of the study explains.”
The research gives an interesting aspect to comparing traditional sports with the fairly-young eSports industry from an even point-of-view…
Today, a major eSports event may attract 40,000 people watching live, and tens of millions watching over the Web. This could be interpreted as meaning that “eSports is bigger than basketball”. That may be true when measured by audience size for an individual event. However, there are far fewer major events for eSports than for traditional sports, which means that in dollar terms eSports is not yet playing in the big leagues.
… and to the difference between pro players and entertainers:
There is nothing wrong with educating or entertaining tens of millions of gamers (usually for free, except for the ads), but it also may not directly lead to tens of millions willing to either subscribe or pay to attend an eSports tournament. So far, much of the online gaming audience is more comparable to fans of the Harlem Globetrotters (people who are entertainers, who happen to play basketball) rather than to fans of a successful pro basketball team who plays to win a championship.
Deloitte’s report does not touch on the demand for wagering on eSports, a demand currently being met by a mix of traditional sports books like bet365 and eSports-first operators like Unikrn – just two of the dozens of sites offering a range of eSports betting fixtures.
Read the full report.
For now, a good momentum
Even if the predictions come true and the yearly growth rate keeps going up, eSports revenues are still far behind the global sports revenues of over $150 billion.
But when it comes to viewership, eSports does reach tens of millions of enthusiasts on a regular basis, and over a hundred million during the most popular events around games like League of Legends, Dota 2, and Counter Strike: GO. As such, it can be compared to many traditional sports that have large audiences, big sponsors and interesting demographics.
Whatever the future may hold for the competitive gaming industry, the fact that the Big Four have arrived in eSports marks a success of its own.