With millions of viewers across the world and million-pound prize pools in the top tournaments, esports is growing fast. But just how big is it, and what about esports in Britain?
2019-20 UPDATE: Newzoo estimates that esports will generate $1.1bn in 2020
2018 UPDATE: Newzoo has predicted that the global esports economy will reach $900m this year, representing year-on-year growth of 38%.
2016 FIGURES: The below article contains older stats first published in 2016.
Esports has enjoyed phenomenal growth in recent years buoyed by the success of big games like League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2, as well as streaming platforms like Twitch, which allow fans to spectate live. Twitch pulls in almost 10m viewers every day.
Here are our top ten stats that show just how big esports is:
- There are currently 148m esports enthusiasts in the world, and 144m occasional viewers. (NewZoo)
- Around 1 in 7 people are now aware of esports. The number of consumers worldwide that are aware of esports will surpass one billion this year, up 36% year-on-year. (NewZoo)
- The world’s largest esports tournament prize pool is the Dota 2 International. This year its total prize pool stood at $20.7m. (Valve)
- Esports will generate revenues of almost $500m in 2016, up 7% from the initial projection from the start of 2016. (NewZoo)
- There were 112 major esports events in 2015 and their total prize money reached $61m – a 70% year-on-year increase. (NewZoo)
- While all of these facts and figures sound fantastic, it’s worth comparing esports to traditional sports, where it still has some way to go. European football, for example, generates $30bn in revenues each year. Esports in comparison, currently generates $500m. (Deloitte)
- That $500m in revenues doesn’t include actual in-game sales. For example, League of Legends generated revenues of $1.6bn in 2015. It currently has around 100m players. (Riot Games)
- The most-watched esports tournament final was that of the 2015 League of Legends World Championship, which was viewed by 36 million people. Over the course of all 73 games, the tournament saw an average concurrent viewership of over 4.2 million, with the average fan watching for over an hour per viewing session. (Riot Games)
- Esports fans are expected to spend $231m on tickets, merchandise and prize pool contributions this year. (SuperData)
- It’s only going to get bigger. Esports revenues are expected to reach $1.1bn in 2019, with 215m esports enthusiasts and 212m occasional viewers set to emerge by that time. (NewZoo)
How big is esports in Britain?
While these numbers are impressive, most of them are worldwide. So what about the British esports scene in particular?
While there aren’t that many sources of information available, NewZoo data shows that there are 36.6 million gamers in the UK, of which 3.1 million are esports enthusiasts.
A further 3.4 million people watch esports occasionally (less than once a month). Overall that equates to 6.5 million people in the UK who either watch esports casually or more regularly – around 10% of the UK population.
So, about one in ten Brits follow esports overall.
They largely follow the big global tournaments, however. For example, the Wembley SSE Arena has played host to the League of Legends World Championship and the CSGO ECS finals in the past, both of which were very well-attended.
At the grassroots level, it’s a different story. The biggest local tournaments include the ESL UK Premiership, UK Masters and Multiplay Insomnia events, which usually have prize pools around £10,000 to £20,000 in size – a long way from the million-pound pools that the biggest global tournaments offer.
Britain has produced several professional gamers, however, some of whom are now playing for some of the top teams in Europe. We’ll take a look at some of them in a separate article.