Esports Growth Statistics

by: Dustin Hawley | Monday September 16, 2019

We have seen tremendous growth over the years both in terms of viewership and revenue in the eSports industry. Brands - who have begun to see the potential of reaching a large, engaged audience - have been investing heavily in eSports marketing, which has been the primary reason behind the rapid revenue growth in the industry.

eSports has also experienced growth in several other areas, many of them being interrelated in one way or another. In this article, we will dive into exactly how much the eSports industry is growing, and how you can leverage it as a marketer. So let's get started!

picture of on stage eSports athletes competing in a large arena

2019: The eSports Industry Surpasses $1 Billion

This year has marked a major milestone for the global eSports market. Revenues will reach an impressive $1.1 billion in 2019, a year-over-year growth of over 26.7%. Close to 82% of the total market ($897.2 million), will come from brand investments (such as media rights, advertising, and sponsorship). Sponsorship is the highest-grossing individual esports revenue stream worldwide, generating $456.7 million in 2019. But while sponsorship is the highest-grossing, the fastest-growing eSports revenue stream far and away is media rights.

eSports Viewership is Growing

Starting in 2016, we have seen a significant increase in eSports viewership – both with casual viewers and full-blown enthusiasts who watch regularly. Year over year, there was a 19.3% increase between 2016 and 2017 in eSports viewership. In 2017 alone, there were 192 million casual viewers and 143 million enthusiasts, a total audience equal to over 335 million.

Then a sort of anomaly occurred. In 2018, the year-over-year growth rate actually dropped slightly to 13.8%, though it still maintained a sizeable increase in growth. In 2018, there were 215 casual viewers and 165 million enthusiasts. So the total audience size grew to 380 million.

Newzoo, the leading global provider of games and eSports analytics, predicts that the annual growth rate will be approximately 14% by 2021. They also predict that the number of casual viewers will grow to 307 million, with over 250 million eSports enthusiasts, a total audience of over 557 million viewers.

winning team hoisting championship trophy at the PUBG Mobile Star Challenge

It's evident that eSports viewership has seen steady growth over recent years, and the trend is likely to only continue in the coming months and years. And this growth isn’t exclusive to dedicated eSports fans; there also seems to be an increase in casual viewership, as outlined above. Increased awareness is likely attributable to this growth.

Additionally, streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube are also seeing growth in their user base. This is certainly another contributing factor to the growth of eSports audiences. 

Global Esports Viewers Will Total 453.8 Million This Year

As we touched on above, it's clear that eSports is a fast-growing industry. But what does that growth look like specifically in 2019? The global eSports audience is projected to grow to 453.8 million worldwide in 2019, a year-over-year growth of 15.0%. This audience is expected to consist of around 201.2 million Esports enthusiasts (a +16.3% year-on-year growth) and 252.6 million casual viewers (a +14.0% year-on-year growth). As the eSports market continues its maturation and the number of local events, leagues, and media rights deals increases, data indicates that the average revenue per fan is expected to grow to $6.02 by 2022.  

Increases In Ad Revenue

According to data firm PwC, eSports revenues surpassed $805 million in 2018, with the biggest portion resulting from sponsorships ($277 million), followed second by media rights and streaming advertisements.

PwC also estimated that over the next three to five years, they expect to see an 11.5% increase in media rights revenue, with expected growth estimated to be roughly $449 million by 2022. This is more than double the rate of growth expected from sponsorship and advertising, which is expected to be a 5.5% increase.

league of legends esports tournament sponsored by Honda

Of course, when audiences grow, expectations follow suit. As is the case with traditional sports fans, Esports viewers want to be able to watch their favorite teams, players, and tournaments anywhere at any time—and this evolution in exposure and accessibility will only help to push profitability.

“Marketers who try to reach eSports fans through video ads will be able to tap into the sophisticated targeting and measurement capabilities that streaming services offer. In that sense, there’s more value to a marketer in attaching itself to game streams than sponsoring an event or team. It’s all about harnessing data.”

Paul Verna, principal analyst at eMarketer

A Rise In Both Streamers and Viewers

Twitch, the Amazon-owned streaming service that calls itself “the world’s leading social video platform and community for gamers", is leading the pack when it comes to reaching the millions of viewers in eSports. Most video platforms, like YouTube, focus on content creators uploading videos for people to watch. However, Twitch was built with the idea of live streaming being top of mind. Viewers can interact with the streamer in real-time.

Amazon bought Twitch for nearly $1 billion in 2014, and at the time, it was one of the largest acquisitions for the e-commerce giant. And it sure turned out to be a great investment: In September 2015, Twitch was averaging just under 600,000 concurrent viewers on the platform. Three years later, unofficial Twitch statistics indicate the number of Twitch viewers has almost doubled, at close to 1.2 million.

What Does This Mean for Marketers?

With a rapidly growing audience and an expansive reach, the eSports industry is drawing the intrigue of marketers. Newzoo reports that global “brand investment revenues”—which include advertising and scholarships—is expected to nearly double from $694 million in 2018 to $1.39 billion by 2021. This means that there is a boatload of money going into the eSports industry, and a bevy of opportunities to raise brand awareness through social media.

But in today’s fast-paced society, brands should look to attempt to mirror eSports’ form as it pertains to implementing advertisements in the space. The majority of the eSports market is young, and therefore are less likely to be reached through traditional advertising channels than an older audience. Additionally, both sponsorships and endorsements are equally viable for marketers whose brands align with the target audience.

eSports also presents a grand opportunity for brands looking to dip their toes into the waters of Influencer Marketing. The growing industry of eSports is a sort of a breeding ground for a top influencer marketing strategy as well, being that the target audience in eSports aligns with the tactics associated with influencer marketing on many levels. As an influencer marketing agency, Viral Nation has already begun to immerse itself into the world of eSports, having executed influencer campaigns for one of the industry's most popular games - PUBG Mobile - and even creating the world's first eSports developmental league, ESDL. 

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