Seven Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About Esports

The esports sector has maintained its impressive growth curve this year after proving remarkably resilient during the Covid-19 pandemic. Competitive gaming swiftly filled the void on broadcast networks after traditional sport was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Many viewers were impressed by what they saw, and they now plan to continue enjoying esports tournaments long into the future. These are the amazing facts and figures that illustrate what a juggernaut this industry has become:

There are around 500 million esports viewers spread across the world.

The total audience reached 458.3 million in 2019, according to market analysis from NewZoo. It initially projected that the viewership figure would grow 11.7% to 495 million in 2020, but it then revealed that “the global quarantine has led to higher viewership, and we expect many new viewers to enter the market”.

It is therefore safe to assume that the global audience has gone past the 500 million mark in 2020. ESPN and Fox Sports are among the traditional broadcasters that started showing esports tournaments this year, but the majority of views are on Twitch and YouTube.

A peak audience of 205 million people tuned in as Invictus Gaming beat Fnatic in the 2018 League of Legends World Championship Grand Final.

That was the first time a Chinese team won the world’s most prestigious LoL tournament, and Chinese viewership drove that astonishing peak. Excluding Chinese outlets, the viewership was just 2 million, but it really captured the public’s imagination in China.

No tournament has ever achieved such a large peak audience since then, but it means that an esports clash has racked up far more viewers than the Super Bowl. LoL is the most popular esport, but CS:GO and Dota 2 are also huge, while the likes of Fortnite, Valorant and Overwatch have gained impressive traction in recent years.

Prize money for The International 2019 hit $34.3 million.

That made it the richest esports tournament of all time. The International is the most prestigious Dota 2 event of the year, bringing the world’s best teams together to vie for supremacy. It is part-funded via a compendium model, whereby gamers buy a Dota 2 battle pass to unlock features and rewards. Some of that money goes towards the prize pool for The International.

Fortnite developer Epic Games stumped up $30 million in prize money for the 2019 Fortnite World Cup, and Dota 2 players were keen to ensure The International remained the richest tournament in the world, so they snapped up a record number of battle passes.

The five members of Team OG, which beat Team Liquid in the final, shared $15.6 million between them. TL received $4.5 million, while third-placed PSG.LGD – a team part-owned by the French soccer team – received $3.1 million.

The esports industry is now worth $1.1 billion.

More than $600 million of that comes from sponsorship deals. Red Bull, Comcast Xfinity, Intel, Coca-Cola, Honda, MasterCard, Audi, Mountain Dew and even the US Air Force have all sponsored the scene in recent years, as they know it gives them access to young adults they struggle to reach via traditional media.

Media rights is the second biggest revenue contributor, followed by publisher fees, merchandise, tickets and streaming deals. NewZoo expects the industry to grow to $1.6 billion by 2023. These sums are large, but they do not take into account the revenue made by the games. Fortnite made $3.6 billion in 2018 and 2019 combined, while LoL regularly makes more than $1 billion per year, and esports fuels the popularity of these games.

Betting on esports is estimated at $23.5 billion in 2020.

Wagering on esports stood at around $6 billion in 2018, but it soared in popularity last year as the sector matured. Industry analysts at Eilers & Krejcik Gaming have crunched the numbers and they put the handle at $23.5 billion this year. Many new bettors switched from traditional sports to esports during the lockdown.

Click here to see just how many betting markets are available on competitive gaming. You can bet on LoL, CS:GO, Dota 2, Injustice 2, Apex Legends, Call of Duty, FIFA, Fortnite, Hearthstone, MVC 2, King of Glory, Mortal Kombat, NBA2K, NHL-Esport, Overwatch, Arena of Valor, PES, UFC 3, PUBG, Rainbow 6, Rocket League, Starcraft, Street Fighter V, Smash Bros., Teamfight Tactics, Quake and Halo 5, with pre-match and in-play bets, prop bets and futures markets available.

Dozens of gamers have become millionaires thanks to their esports prowess.

Ninety-two players have earned more than $1 million in prize money thanks to their prowess with a mouse and keyboard. The five highest earners of all time are the members of Team OG – N0tail, JerAx, ana Ceb and Topson – who have all earned more than $5 million after winning back-to-back Internationals.

However, that only includes prize money. The best players earn large salaries and top up their earnings through sponsorship deals. There is also a great deal of money available for streaming on Twitch and YouTube.

Schools actively encourage children to get into esports.

A study conducted in 2019 found that one in five schools already have an esports program, while a further 71% are considering launching one. Esports teaches focus, communication, problem solving, mathematical prowess, creativity, teamwork and many more skills that help students thrive. They feel as though they are contributing more to the school ecosystem, and they are more likely to attend classes as a result.

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