PwC Survey: eSports Has Evolved Into An Industry That Is Here To Stay

eSports industry viewership survey PwC
Recently, PwC or PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the most famous global financial and auditing companies, has issued a report on the eSports industry called “The burgeoning evolution of eSports.”

The report includes a survey about general awareness of the eSports industry and gives insights of people’s involvement in the industry. Information is based on a sample of 757 respondents.

What is eSports and how did the industry get to where it is today?

The report starts off by looking back on the roots of the industry. Competitive gaming emerged more or less at the same time as when video games were introduced. Even though battling with friends at home over a game of Super Mario Kart can also be thought as competitive, it’s a completely different idea to what the eSports industry is today.

Said David Stern, former commissioner of the NBA:

“An important characteristic of eSports is the combination of its Asian roots moving into North America and Europe with their installed infrastructure of consoles and enthusiastic base of video gamers. Just like social media, it’s a global phenomenon without borders.”

With proper organization, tournaments, championships, leagues, and other forms of competitive gaming have been introduced that is comparable to competitions in classic sports. As the report mentions, the Space Invaders Championship held by Atari in 1980 was the first large-scale video game competition, which attracted more than 10,000 participants across the United States.

The industry really took off with the expansion of social media, which is considered the most powerful catalyst for the mainstreaming of eSports. After the gaming community got united with the emergence of Twitter, Facebook, and the most important of them all, Twitch, the eSports industry started to morph into its shape that we can see today.

As time passed, the industry transited from an underground community with a somewhat negative social stigma to an extremely popular global market that attracts and entertains millions of enthusiasts.

Even though questions like “can eSports be considered a real sport?” still remain, according to PwC, “eSports has already proven itself a worthy competitor and is here to stay.”

“eSports is another genre that can’t be easily dismissed as an underground ‘niche,’ or a mere subset of the gaming genre,” the report quoted Chad Gutstein, CEO of Machinima, an American gaming and media streaming website, as saying.

An explosion of popularity

With the advance of the internet and social platforms, the popularity of eSports exploded.

Compared to the past, fans can now follow all events at home, simply by turning on the stream that’s offered by multiple service providers like Twitch and Azubu. Additionally, companies like ESPN, Turner Sports, and Yahoo, which were mostly focused on classic sports broadcasting, also got involved in the competitive gaming market by launching their own eSports divisions.

“The rise of social media, live streaming, and expanded distribution options for broadcasts of top level competition have enabled eSports to break down geographical barriers in a way that many traditional sports have struggled with,” said Mike Sepso, senior vice president of Activision Blizzard Media Networks.

The survey

The information found in this reports is based on a sample of 757 respondents who participated in answering various questions about the eSports industry and their involvement with it.

The sample consisted of 56 percent males and 44 percent females. Most participants were between the age 25 and 34 (44 percent of the sample), followed by the 35-49 years of age bracket (24 percent), 18-24 years of age (19 percent), and 50-64 years of age (13 percent).

By asking participants if they’ve heard about eSports, what their level of involvement is, their motivation behind viewing eSports, and similar questions, the survey’s objective was to create an idea of how well-known the eSports community is and what it looks like in terms of demographics.

Additionally, questions were asked about how those who are involved already and those who are new to eSports see their participation in the future, as the survey tried to gauge what lies ahead for the industry.

Key findings – demographics

According to the CEO of eSports arcade machine maker, GameCo, Inc.:

“A decade from now eSports will be on par with today’s traditional sports.”

From all respondents, 15 percent were aware of eSports. Of those 15 percent, 34 percent were between age 18 and 24.

This awareness jumped to 30 percent when a definition of eSports was given. This shows that competitive gaming is already known in the general public, but that the term eSports, which actually describes competitive gaming, has not yet fully been spread out in public.

Most people who know about eSports found out about it through word of mouth. However when it came to hardcore gamers, they first learned about eSports from online gaming communities and other online user-generated sites (e.g. reddit).

The survey showed that 20 percent of the respondents were involved with eSports as watchers, players, or both. With the emergence of broadcasting providers, involvement got a lot easier, because not everyone who likes to watch also likes to play. Twelve percent were watchers only, 6 percent watched and participated, and 2 percent only participated.

According to the survey, a typical consumer is gender neutral, has a median age of 28 (with the age bracket 18-34 representing 69 percent of the group), is not of a specific race, and is more likely to own various tech devices (desktop computer, connected TV, connected device, etc.).

An interesting result that came out of the survey was that 22 percent of women surveyed said they’re involved with eSports versus 18 percent of men. It’s an interesting fact considering the stigma that the industry is “dominated” by men.

Another noteworthy gender difference that resulted from the survey was that men prefer competition, meaning that besides watching for fun, they also try to improve their own game through watching games, compared to women, who appear to watch for enjoyment.

“For success in eSports, it’s critical to recognize that today’s ‘average’ gamer is not the stereotype of a male teen in their parents’ basement,” remarked Cinnamon Booth, COO of GameCo, Inc.

Viewership

Among total eSports viewers, one in five are watching weekly with an average of 19 days of viewing per year. Asian and Hispanic viewers tend to watch more frequently (27 days and 23 days, respectively) and self-identified hardcore gamers are the ones who watch most of all (averaging 32 days per year).

When asked to compare eSports currently watched to how much they watched a year ago, 36 percent of respondents said that they watch more, an indication that eSports viewership is on the rise.

When it came to means of viewing, 57 percent of respondents who have watched an eSports competition have done so on a laptop or desktop computer. This is more than any other device, making traditional computers the preferred method of viewership.

Gaming consoles are being used more frequently among females (60 percent) and hardcore gamers (56 percent).

Genre

The survey showed that within the sample, first-person shooter games are the number one watched genre in eSports among viewers, regardless of age, gender, or type of gamer.

Multiplayer online battle arena competitions with games like Dota 2 and League of Legends run a close second for 18-24 year olds (47 percent), who are significantly more likely to watch the genre more than any other age bracket.

According to the survey, eSports competitors overwhelmingly play first-person shooter games more than any other type of game (62 percent). Fighting took second place with 48 percent and MMOs finished third with 31 percent.

The eSports consumer

On average, the eSports consumer spends $309 per year on video games, including, but not limited to, the purchase of consoles, games, accessories, subscriptions and events. The total sample average amounted to $245 per year.

Business and the eSports industry

As seen in the past, there are a lot of business opportunities around the competitive gaming industry.

Due to the favorable audience of young and active people, who are probably working already and are ready to spend their disposable income for entertainment, many companies are seeking ways to capitalize on the growing market. Agencies, advertisers, live event companies and sporting venues are just some of the businesses aligning with eSports.

Players, teams and leagues make up the bulk of the current investment pie, but, according to the report, it won’t be long before we see further expansion into non-traditional partnerships. eSports betting sites offering betting on Dota 2 and other titles are also gaining in popularity.

Live events – “a natural progression for this growing competition and its cult fan base”

Live events around popular eSports games have long surpassed the typical LAN party in a basement or a small high-school gymnasium.

With prize pools amounting to more than $10 million, it is no surprise that participation is bigger than ever – people can actually make a living off gaming. And seeing more than 70 million people watch competitive gaming, live events are a natural development for this growing industry and its massive fan base.

The future of eSports

A very interesting and important question included in the survey was: “How does the amount of eSports you currently watch/play compare to how much you watched/played a year ago and how much you intend to watch/play in the future?”

The results show that, out of all respondents, 26 percent answered with “more” for watching and 29 percent answered with “more” for playing. Additionally, 57 percent said their amount of watching would “stay the same” and 43 percent said their amount of playing would “stay the same.”

It’s a significant insight when thinking about the future growth of the industry. With growing awareness will come even more popularity for eSports, so it can be said without doubt that good times for the competitive gaming community are ahead.

Dejan Zalik

About

Dejan has been involved in gaming for over 10 years. Moving from classics like Diablo 2, Lineage 2, and Warcraft 3, he found his passion in Dota 2, which he’s been playing ever since. He also likes to keep up to date by reading and writing about whatever is happening in the industry.