The Remarkable Rise of Esports
Esports, or electronic sports, has become bigger than ever and continues to rise in popularity. Audience numbers and industry revenues have ballooned since just last year alone, in part because of the COVID-19 lockdowns.
It’s predicted that over the course of 2020, the total esports audience will grow to 495 million. Meanwhile, revenues in esports will reach an estimated $1.1 billion.
The esports audience number accounts for both players (enthusiasts) and casual viewers. By 2021 esports will have a predicted 307 million viewers and 250 million enthusiasts.
To give you an idea of esports’ popularity, the League of Legends 2019 tournament drew a bigger audience than the NBA finals in the USA.
There has also been a rise in median earning per player as well as the total prize money in tournaments.
What Explains This Incredible Growth?
There are various reasons why esports has gained so much viewership, participation, and revenue in 2020. One of them is the COVID-19 lockdowns. Many have turned to gaming and viewing esports to kill time and socialise remotely while they were stuck inside.
Lockdown boredom and lots of free time isn’t the only reason COVID-19 is causing a rise in esports engagement, though.
While Most Major 2020 Sporting Events Were Cancelled, Esports Remained
Most major sporting events, from the Olympics to Formula One to Wimbledon, have been cancelled this year due to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, thanks to being virtual, esports competitions have been largely able to continue and plug the gap in sports entertainment. Some broadcasters have even shown tournaments on live TV to fill in the slots previously taken by sports.
Although several live esports tournaments have been postponed or cancelled this year on account of COVID-19, some have gone ahead remotely.
Famous Athletes are Joining in
Interestingly, some of the large sporting events cancelled this year moved online to host virtual tournaments. One of these was Formula One, which organised virtual races in place of the ones that the tournament had to call off. Gamers who took part competed virtually against some actual F1 pro drivers, including the German racer Nico Hülkenberg. Meanwhile F1 fans were able to enjoy the sports event in a different medium.
Meanwhile, several La Liga players in Spain have hosted virtual tournaments on FIFA 20 which have attracted tens of thousands of viewers. They even held a derby to raise funds for Spanish medical staff on the frontline of the pandemic.
The adoption of esports by broadcasters and athletes since the start of the pandemic also means the industry is now reaching a wider audience.
There’s an Esport for Everyone and it’s Easier Than Ever to Reach Fans
An obvious reason for the popularity of esports amongst viewers and players is the variety.
Along with virtual sports and racing games like Rocket League and Formula One, esports enthusiasts will find multiplayer online battle arena games such as Dota 2 and League of Legends, shooter games like Call of Duty, fighting games, world-building games … The list goes on. There’s something to entertain all tastes, so it’s no wonder esports has so many followers.
What’s more, esports brands and promoters can reach fans more easily than ever before. Twitch, YouTube and other social media and streaming platforms are all to thank for that. And the more fans esports can engage, the more revenue the industry pulls in; according to Linkfluence, fans tend to be “young… with comparatively high amounts of disposable income”. This income often goes towards purchasing in-game products like expansion packs, as well as products advertised by external brands.
Fans also regularly spend a lot of time spectating and can be relied on to boost viewership numbers.
High Viewership and Growth is Attracting More Investors
The explosion in the number of esports followers has not gone unnoticed by brands. Many are finding ways to promote themselves through the esports industry. Some use esports to advertise their products to enthusiasts, others sponsor gaming syndicates. Others still license products and games.
Corporations aren’t alone. Even celebrities are investing in esports brands and syndicates. Some, like rapper The Weeknd, are even becoming brand ambassadors for certain games.
With the increasing attention and investment esports is getting from brands, celebrities, broadcasters, and athletes, as well as an expanding fanbase, it doesn’t look like its growth is going to slow down any time soon – regardless of the COVID-19 situation.
Interested in giving esports betting a go? Have a look at our esports betting tips as well as our recommended esports betting sites.