Esports is a fast-growing sector of the entertainment industry that has established a huge global audience. Initially overlooked by economists and business organizations as a hyped novelty, competitive gaming has made rapid strides over the last few years, powered by the success of streaming platforms including YouTube Gaming and Twitch.
Esports Audience Demographics
With over 474 million esports fans around the world, the sector has a growing audience that can rival some of the biggest sporting events. For example, Super Bowl LI pulled in an impressive audience of 111 million fans, but the League of Legends Worlds generated an audience of 360 million.
We will look more closely at age and gender later, but one of the most interesting aspects of the esports audience is their relative affluence. A survey by Interpret found that as many as 30% of esports fans have a personal annual income of $100,000 or higher, while 25% of casual esports viewers said they had incomes at that level, defying stereotypes about young gaming fans.
Evidence of the global nature of the esports audience comes from numerous surveys, including a Googe Source Trends report that found the US ranked 38th on a 63-region list in terms of keyword searches based around esports, with most of the interest being in Scandinavian and Asian nations.
But the world’s biggest national economy is of huge significance and the esports audience is growing rapidly in the US. Looking in depth at the growth can tell us much about the nature of this audience. The main growth comes in the states of Washington, California, Utah, Nevada, and Hawaii, with the metro areas of San Diego, Honolulu, Orlando-Daytona Beach, San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, and Seattle-Tacoma, all of which are close to technology growth hubs and significant military bases.
Age and Gender
The link to the military is not an accident. Studies by Statista have shown that the average age of an esports viewer in the US is 29, while 17% of survey respondents aged 18-34 were fans of esports. Given that the bulk of the armed forces is aged in that 18-34 bracket, it is not surprising that in the US at least, esports have a big audience in the military, helped by the fact that most branches of the armed forces now have a formal esports program.
The esports audience has often been stereotyped as exclusively male, but that is no longer the case, and the situation is changing. Around 72% of the esports audience is male, but that number is declining as more women become involved in esports. Evidence from Statistica, for example, shows that 45% of US gamers in 2021 were women, up from a figure of 41% in 2020.
Brands who Follow Esports
With such a large and growing audience, it is not surprising that esports has attracted the attention of some of the world’s global business brands, particularly those that target affluent customers.
Two of the best-known examples are car companies. Audi was one of the first to become involved in esports sponsorship when they partnered with esports team FOKUS CLAN. Mercedes went further, creating its own esports team, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One. As part of this involvement, they funded a purpose-built esports training facility called Brackley, which offers state-of-the-art equipment and facilities to help develop players’ skills.
The fashion world has also taken an interest in esports. Louis Vuitton grabbed the headlines when announcing their LVxLOL collection, with Riot Games, which developed League of Legends, one of the big three esports. Their collection feature trousers, shoes, shirts, parkas, and accessories and was wildly popular with esports fans, selling out in just one hour, underlining the considerable possibilities that await brands who are willing to engage with the world of esports.
Esports Player Statistics
At the heart of the esports sector are the players. Thanks to dedicated esports and streaming platforms, it is easier than ever before for esports fans to follow their favorites and the extreme skill demonstrated by the top esports professionals continues to push back the boundaries of the possible. Here are some of the most eye-catching stats that shed light on the career of an esports player.
$7,184,163.05 is the complete career earnings figure for Johan N0tail Sundstein, by March 2021. $7,172,436.03 of that figure or 99.84% was earned playing Dota 2.
In 2020 the total career earnings of the top woman player in esports, Sasha Scarlett Hostyn who has competed in Starcraft II and Dota 2, was $393,528.19
The median earnings per competition per player were $615.23 in 2020, indicating that most players have to work hard to make a significant living from their sport.
Also in 2020, the nation with the highest number of active esports players was the US, with 4334. US players have also recorded the highest earnings: $161,703,105.43.
Much of the prize money in esports is concentrated among the top teams. Here are the earnings of the top five esports teams, recorded in 2021:
- Natus Vincere: $740,569.30
- Nova eSports: $700,000.00
- Gambit Esports: $467,310.00
- Pittsburgh Knights: $404,000.00
- Team Liquid: $346,305.00
Statistics also shed some light on the age factor for esports players. As of March 2021, the highest earners were 24-year-olds, while the most common retirement age was just 25.