Esports – short for Electronic Sports is the name given to professional competitive gaming. In a nutshell, competitors play video games, while being watched by a live audience. Millions more watch the games online.
One major tournament, the 2016 League of Legends World Championship finals, attracted 43 million viewers.
Esports and gaming have burst into the mainstream in recent years, transforming from a vibrant niche to a central form of entertainment around the world. While esports may have once stood for a subset of sports culture, it has grown into a full industry in its own right.
Esports in the last two decades has become a billion-dollar industry. Players are celebrities, tournaments fill arenas with screaming fans, and sponsors are increasingly injecting real money into the sports ecosystem.
Esports Market Growth Trends
As competitive gaming cements itself in the popular culture, global investors, brands, media outlets, and consumers are all paying attention. Total esports viewership is expected to grow at 9% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2019 and 2023, up from 454 million in 2019 to 646 million in 2023, per Business Insider intelligence estimates. That puts the audience on pace to nearly double over a six-period, as the 2017 audience stood at 335 million.
Even today, people are still debating whether playing computer games professionally should be considered a sport or not.
The truth is – it doesn’t matter. According to the World Economic Forum, the global audience for eSports sits around 300 million fans. That’s now officially enough people to render the question irrelevant. ESports seems to be here to stay, attracting an ever-increasing number of players, viewers, advertisers, and support.
ESports has grown in popularity so much that it’s prize pool has now surpassed that of many popular sports. According to Business Insider, the US Open (2017, tennis) had the largest prize pool of all sports, at around 50 million US dollars. In the second place, sits “The International 2017,” an eSports tournament for the popular game Dota 2. The prize? 24.7 million US dollars. That’s more than the Indy 500 (13.1 million) or the Stanley Cup (7 million).
A Mobile Future
When we think of eSports, most of us usually think of a bunch of players sitting behind a personal computer screen.
But according to some, the future of eSports resides in mobile.
Indeed, it seems that most esports industry leaders are placing their bets on mobile. Companies like Supercell, with only 4 game titles, have reported almost 2 billion euros (2.29 billion US dollars) in 2017, and around 700 million euros (802 million US dollars) in profit.
With around 1.6 billion smartphones expected to be shipped in 2022, mobile presents the perfect opportunity for eSports to capture new players, draw in advertisers, and expand its reach.
However, some people doubt mobile is the answer. According to Michael Patcher, research analyst at Wedbush Securities, the size of mobile screens and the lack of proper controls makes it difficult to offer a (playing and watching) experience as good as computer screens do.
But while he admits that the number of mobile players will exceed that of computer or console players, it’s unlikely we will see organized sports events such as the League of Legends Championship Series for mobile.
A Bright Future
Whether people will be playing on their mobiles or computers, watching games on Twitch comfortably from their couches or attending “mega-events,” one thing is for sure. eSports, with a growing number of players and viewers, increasing revenues and popularity, and with unprecedented ease of accessibility, allowing almost anyone to join (if they’re willing to put in the sweat and tears), has what one can only assume is a very bright future.
Will it ever become an Olympic sport? As we said, only those who are skeptical of it seem to be worried about it.