What is Esports?
eSports is a professional game-playing league where competitors from all over the world battle it out in online gaming tournaments. It has become a global phenomenon with competitions and leagues being played simultaneously across the globe for prize money in the millions for its teams and players. eSports can trace its roots back to the 1970s at the University of Stanford, where students would compete in tournaments from the first Spacewar game. The industry has blossomed due to the popularity of gaming and the ability to play against friends and rival players online.
During the 1990s and the revolution of the Nintendo SNES console, in-person tournaments emerged for Super Mario, Tetris and Rad Racer. This soon developed with the release of new titles such as Legend of Zelda and Street Fighter. Counter Strike was one of the first titles to embrace online gameplay, using groups of teams to compete in domestic and international tournaments online.
Its success has been essential to the rise of eSports as a format and a professional career that many gamers now aspire to have. Call of Duty, Valorant and League of Legends are just a few of the titles that are played professionally throughout the year in tournaments all over the world. Teams have been formed and have become almost as popular as traditional sports teams. This trend is poised to continue as the popularity of eSports grows.
Popularity of traditional sports
Traditional sports have commanded huge numbers of participation across the world, and that will not end any time in the near future. Football is the most dominant sport and is played in almost every country across the globe, enjoying significant influence. It transcends languages and culture, as almost everyone is familiar with the basic rules of the sport.
It is estimated that it has a following of over 4 billion worldwide for both the men’s and women’s game. Cricket also has a massive following due its roots in Asia and the UK Commonwealth, notably being the most popular in India, which has a population of 1 billion.
|Sport||Global Followers (estimate)||Territories|
|Cricket||2.5 billion||Europe, Asia, Oceania, Caribbean|
|Field Hockey||2.0 billion||Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania|
|Volleyball||900 million||Europe, North America, South America|
|Table Tennis||875 million||Global|
|Baseball||500 million||North America, Caribbean, Japan|
|Rugby||475 million||Europe and UK Commonwealth|
The top competitions for traditional sports also make them a behemoth for television and streaming audiences. The Football World Cup is watched by billions around the world, while the leading competitions such as the Champions League, English Premier League, Spanish La Liga among others also draw in millions every week. Cricket also has its showcase events with the Cricket World Cup and the World T20 along with domestic competitions the Indian Premier League and the Big Bash that draw massive audiences.
Even sports that are not mainstream globally, such as American football, can have a huge cultural impact due to its reach via television and streaming. For the NFL and their flagship event, the Super Bowl has commanded a television audience of 100 million people in the USA over the last 10 years, and is even larger when including viewing figures from over 180 territories where it is broadcast worldwide.
eSports Viewership is Growing
You don’t have to be an expert to notice the rise in eSports. A simple look online will highlight the growing culture around eSports games and the teams that are competing in the major leagues around the world. These sports are becoming a spectator event due to the ease in which matches and competitions can be viewed on Twitch and YouTube. Just like if you wanted to watch your favourite traditional sports teams on television or through a streaming service, you can look up on the schedule to see when and where your favourite eSports team or players are in action. These links are readily available online, and can even be accessed through sports betting sites.
Due to the rise of eSports as entertainment and as a professional entity, it has become an extremely popular betting market for fans from all demographics. Markets can be easily found through sites such as Rizk and LeoVegas that provide offers such as the no deposit bonuses here among other incentives for new customers to use their eSports markets. These betting markets are a hidden driving factor in the popularity of eSports that is spreading out of a niche activity into the mainstream.
Find more statistics at Statista
Research suggests that the number of eSports fans has grown year upon year over the last three years. In 2019, there were 197 million eSports fanatics, but that figure grew to 229.6 million in 2021. In 2024, that figure is expected to rise once more to 285.7m enthusiasts, with 292.2m occasional viewers. From 2019 to 2024 the compound annual growth rate will be up to 7.7%, a staggering rise for the industry as a whole and with it comes great opportunities.
eSports Revenue Streams
As a result of its popularity, eSports have many possible avenues for revenue accumulation. In 2021 it was reported that eSports earned up to $1084.1 million across the board, with the Chinese market contributing up to a third of the overall total. Teams and competitions have drawn in significant funds through sponsorship, reaching up to almost $650m through these partnerships.
There is room for further growth as more notable companies and brands seek involvement with eSports due to their notoriety and the global audiences they command. Media rights and publisher fees were the next highest forms of revenue, and as notoriety increases, the requirement for greater media access will increase. This will lead to more sponsorship opportunities. You can use the example of the Premier League in football just to see how fruitful a strong media market could be for all concerned in eSports.
Most valuable eSports teams
Traditional sports have sides that are deemed the richest in the world in terms of revenue. For example, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Liverpool and Barcelona are a collection of the richest football clubs in the world. They use their standing in the sport to draw huge amounts of revenue from television deals, merchandise, ticket sales and their digital platforms. It is no surprise that eSports teams that play across multiple games and leagues have followed in the footsteps of those clubs to draw significant revenue. Here are the most valuable according to research from Forbes in 2020.
|Cloud9||$350m||$21m||Jack and Paullie Etienne|
|Team Liquid||$310m||$24.92m||aXiomatic Gaming, Victor Goossens, Steve Arhancet|
|FaZe Clan||$305m||$8m||Lee Trink, Richard Bengston (FaZe Banks), Thomas Oliveira (FaZe Temperrr), Yousef Abdelfattah (FaZe Apex), Nordan Shat (FaZe Rain)|
|100 Thieves||$190m||$5.6m||Matthew Haag, Drake, Scooter Braun, Dan Gilbert|
Future of eSports
eSports are only going to continue to grow as a sporting entity across the globe. The hope for owners and fans of the sport will be that eSports teams will become as synonymous as Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Dallas Cowboys in terms of their branding and what they mean to their respective sports.
The opportunity is there. A fanbase that has grown up with gaming, and specifically online gaming, will embrace eSports as a mainstream activity in the same way that they would look at a traditional sport such as football and cricket. Whereas as some sports are affected by language and cultural barriers, gaming has been universal in its success across the world. Therefore, the opportunities for eSports are endless in terms of viewership and revenue streams, meaning the sky is the limit.
This is a paid guest post.