Millions of viewers, dedicated leagues
and professional athletes

Understanding eSports


With million dollar prices in live tournaments, millions of viewers, dedicated leagues and professional athletes, it's hard to overlook the rise of commercialized competitive gaming - eSports. By now, it has almost become general knowledge that the competitive gaming scene is booming and that there is no end to its popularity. In this article we want to look at some numbers, give an overview of the industry and show why everyone wants a piece of the eSports cake.

This article was last updated on 07/13/2018
Source cover picture: Riot Games 2017, World Championship

A lot has happened since the LAN parties of the 1990s. What started out as some friends playing Duke Nukem 3D, Counter-Strike or StarCraft while staying up late and surviving on pizza, soon developed into massive events with several hundred or thousand participants. Add the internet and the availability of cheap broadband connections and you end up with the global scene with millions of viewers that we are seeing today.

To put in perspective how big eSports have become, let’s take a look at some numbers

According to Newzoo, global eSports revenues amounted to $493M in 2016 and are estimated to grow to $696M in 2017, an incredible increase by 41.3%. Newzoo even estimates that by 2020, global eSports revenues will surpass $1bn and will then amount to $1.48bn.

Where is all that money coming from?

The majority of revenues comes from brands - in the forms of advertising, sponsorships, and media rights. This year, $517M or 74% are expected to derive from these sources. Of course, quite a few brands come from gaming or related fields but a lot of non-endemic companies have discovered the market and its opportunities. Whether it is Coca Cola, McDonald’s, Gillette, Mountain Dew, Gazprom, Visa, or Red Bull, they all see eSports as an important field - similar to traditional sports.


But why are these companies investing so much in eSports?

For two reasons: With non-eSports titles, companies target the gamers themselves and try to convince them to buy new titles or spend money in-game. While that is still an option in eSports, there is a whole other audience to target: the viewers. Last year, 323M people were watching competitive matches on a regular basis. 161M being occasional viewers and another 162M frequent viewers. Newzoo even believes the eSports audience will increase to 589M viewers by 2020.

But it is not only the sheer number of viewers that drives brand investments into eSports: It is true that the total revenue per eSports fan is lower than in traditional sports – in 2017, each fan will spend $3.64 averagely. But compared to the general online population, eSports fans are a very valuable demographic. 54% (of which 30% are female) fall in the age group of 21-35, a group that is getting harder and harder to reach with traditional advertising. Besides their age, eSports fans are also more likely to be employed full-time and to have a higher income than the general online population.


Source: Statistia 2017 - eSports audience size worldwide from 2012 to 2020, by type of viewers (in millions)

Now, let's have a look at the actual gaming side of eSports – which games are being played and why do people watch them?

Overall, there are six genres that gamers like to play and watch:

  • MOBA (e.g. LoL, Dota 2)
  • FPS (e.g. Counter-Strike, Call of Duty)
  • RTS (e.g. StarCraft, Warcraft III)
  • Sports (e.g. FIFA, Rocket League)
  • Fighting (e.g. Super Smash Bros., Street Fighter)
  • CCG (e.g Hearthstone, Gwent)

The importance of a genre keeps changing as it is determined by the popularity of its games. For example, MOBAs can always be found at the top end of the list, due to their ever popular titles Dota 2 and League of Legends. CS:GO is a classic representative of the FPS genre, but new titles such as PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds are also showing the importance of FPS in eSports.

What makes a successful eSports game?
All these games and genres have (at least) three things in common:


they follow the general setup of traditional sports: several players or teams of players fight a match under the same starting conditions - and only skill determines the outcome.


they are easy to learn yet hard to master. On the one hand, players and spectators are able to dive right into the game; on the other hand, these games are deep enough so everyone won’t be unsolicited quickly.

And thirdly,

all these games are spectator-friendly. A good and convenient spectator mode is mandatory. In addition, each round has to last for just the right amount of time - crispy enough to keep things exciting, but not too long to cause boredom.

If you have any more questions or need any assistance with your brand strategy, advertising or sponsorships in eSports, we are happy to help! Just send us a message or give us a call:

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