eSports is enjoying a larger audience reach than that of the Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League, two of the most traditional sports in North America.
Esports, which is short for electronic sports, refers to competitive video gaming watched by spectators.
Even though eSports are still not as mainstream as traditional sports in the North America region, its fanbase worldwide is still sizable. Some professional eSports teams already train for up to 8 hours a day, have coaches, trainers, nutritionists on staff, and players who receive base salaries, so this innovative practice is not joking around, it really aims to become just like any pro sports league in the world.
Goldman Sachs estimated that the global monthly audience for eSports reached 167 million people during 2018, a larger reach than that of the Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Hockey League (NHL), two big sports for the U.S. and Canada.
[ihc-hide-content ihc_mb_type=”show” ihc_mb_who=”3,4,5,6″ ihc_mb_template=”3″ ]
However, despite the large boom, the peak of this industry is yet to be seen, as experts predict that 600 million consumers globally will watch eSports in 2023, up 79% from 2017. Today, roughly 50 colleges in the U.S. have varsity eSports teams as millennials and Generation Z have established themselves as the majority of professional gaming fans, also saying to be open to brand sponsors, who have already made global eSports sponsorship revenue reach $359 million during last year, up 53% year-over-year.
According to Nielsen and Activate, 62% of U.S. eSports viewers are aged 18 to 34, while 58% have a positive attitude towards brand involvement in it. Additional data from Business Insider suggests Gen Zers are more receptive to nontraditional sports, like eSports, than traditional sports — 56% of US Gen Z men (aged 13-21) said nontraditional sports are “relevant to my generation,” while just 44% said the same for traditional sports.
The impact of it has been so strong, that the inclusion of eSports in the 2024 Paris Olympics is currently under discussion, according to the BBC.
The keys of success
Despite the big numbers, to understand the success of eSports, it’s necessary to see through them.
Professional video game play has become strongly appealing to a massive global audience of people who can watch and learn from pros and try to improve their own gameplay — something that isn’t quite as possible for most traditional sports fans.
While the distribution of eSports is also nearly 100% digital, fans can stream eSports content for free any part of the world, not worried about the traditional TV rights and expensive cable subscription, also creating big opportunities for advertisers in a milestone 2019, where digital ad spending is expected to exceed traditional ad spending in the U.S. for the first time ever. Plus, eSports gets even better through a mobile device, which is by far the best place for gaming, as by the end of 2019, 147.8 million people in the U.S. will play mobile games, compared to 91 million digital console players.
The ambition is real: eSports truly aims to become a full-fledged professional sport as they reside in the cross-section of some powerful trends: social connections being formed and maintained online, digital consumption of video, and global growth in the gaming audience, also collecting a numerous public and big private investment opportunities, both in terms of audience and, increasingly, monetization.
Today, the eSports audience represents just 5% of the total online gaming population, with China leading the industry due to the range of games, customer engagement, and robust user base, but there’s still a lot of room to cover.
It’s an exciting time for the gaming industry and eSports. Innovative technology, marketing, and brand partnerships will only accelerate the industry’s rise in the years to come, so there’s no better time than the present to get in on the action.