According to Newzoo, there are about 222.9 million esports fans across the globe, if you add in all of the occasional esports viewers, that brings the total to 495 million esports viewers. They predict that the number will grow by around 7.7% by the year 2024 when they believe the total viewership will reach 577.2 million.
To most people, numbers that high are almost meaningless, but if you are in the esports industry, or simply just a fan, this should be some exciting news. That means that they have already exceeded the total fanbase of sports like American Football and Baseball, both of which hover around 400 million fans.
If you were to only watch the traditional sports news, this may come as a surprise to you. But esports fans already know just how popular it is.
The growth of the Esports Industry
The esports industry is rapidly growing. The turning point for the whole industry was 2018. By then streaming services had reached their peak, the market was full of fantastic esports titles, and the viewership was about to explode.
That rapid growth in viewership was not just relegated to the super fans. While there was a rapid increase in dedicated esports viewership, there was also a growth in the casual viewership market. More and more people began to watch esports.
According to Newzoo, between 2018 and 2019, there was a 12.3% increase year over year in esports viewership and by that time there were 245 million casual viewers and 198 million enthusiasts, making the total audience 443 million.
The latest statistics came out in March of 2021 when Newzoo reported that viewership grew by 8.7% to 474 million esports viewers. As we mentioned earlier in the article, this trend is likely to continue for several more years. The esports industry is growing at a rapid click and it is predicted to continue that trend.
Largest Esports Viewership
It is hard to accurately track the most viewed esports title or esports team because of the huge number of tournaments and events in which they are featured every year. There is a simpler way to break it down, we can look at the top esports titles when it comes to winnings. The assumption is that the most popular esport will also have the largest financial backing.
According to research from The Esports Observer, we can see that the esports game with the highest winnings in 2020 was Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with $14.75 million in winnings. This is the only hiccup in our system. We expect that the highest in 2020 will be Dota 2. That event was cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. If it did go ahead, the prize pool for The International would reach $40 million, dwarfing all other esports games.
According to the media data website Esports Charts, the most popular esports organisation of 2020 was G2 Esports. The club scored over 9.2M hours watched in 2020 alone. Peak viewerships came in during the LoL Worlds when over 2 million viewers tuned in to watch the match against DWG KIA. It’s also worth mentioning that G2 has also received awards for The Best Esports Organization at The Game Awards and The Esports Awards in 2020.
These events and teams have huge fanbases that could rival almost any traditional sport. It just does not have a centralised location. There isn’t an Old Trafford or Yankee Stadium for specific teams and local fans. They train in closed facilities and broadcast from neutral arenas. You don’t need to live near an esports team to be a fan.
Is Esports the fastest growing sport?
Are esports really a sport? That’s a difficult one to answer, on the one hand, players who compete in the highest levels are genuinely skilled and spend years training to get where they are, but on the other hand, the Mountain Dew League doesn’t sound like a sports tournament at all.
The real crux of the question lies in the difference between esports as a sport, and esports as a media product. No matter how much we argue or debate, the way fans interact with and consume esports content is very different from fans of traditional sports.
Despite these arguments, esports is one of the fastest-growing sports entertainment products in the world. The big issue, however, is finance. They are growing fast but they have yet to catch up with the major players in the sports scene when it comes to revenue.
According to yet again to Newzoo, the esports industry is expected to generate revenues of over $1617.7 million globally by 2024. That global revenue figure is dwarfed by the European football market which is estimated to have generated around £25.1 billion in 2020 according to figures released by Deloitte.
The future growth of esports
If your perception of esports is a group of folks hunched over PCs playing an intense MOBA, then you may be surprised to know that the potential for future growth in esports is not coming from PC games or console titles, instead it is mobile games that are leading the charge.
These games are just as demanding and interesting as their PC counterparts, but they are far more accessible. More people own smartphones than PCs and many mobile esports titles have been designed to be played on less powerful phones. If you have a smartphone that was built in the last 4 years, congratulations you are halfway to becoming an esports pro.
Free-to-play mobile titles like PUBG Mobile, Free Fire, Call of Duty Mobile, and more are all hugely popular esports titles that have only just begun to expand their esports events. Not only that, Riot Games, the developers of the hugely popular League of Legends are developing their own mobile game, Wild Rift, that is sure to dominate the mobile esports industry.
Another potential avenue for the future growth of the esports industry is the creation of new and exciting esports titles. A few years ago, no one had heard of games like Valorant or Fortnite, but now they are some of the most popular esports titles in the world. Epic Games spent over $100 million on the Fortnite esports scene propelling it into the spotlight. Riot Games created Valorant and their experience with esports titles was all it took to create the next CS:GO. Who knows what new games could be the next big thing?
Esports has had a huge growth spurt and doesn’t look like it is stopping any time soon. As the world opens back up after the pandemic and esports events restart in earnest, it has the potential to be bigger than ever.
The international power of esports has positioned it as the future of the advertising, betting, and sporting world. The fanbase can be anywhere, the matches can be viewed online and for free, and the teams are not tied to one geographical location.