Self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic has had a beneficial effect on the home entertainment segment, video games in particular. Esports has not only quickly adapted to the changing reality but also made the most of new opportunities. Video games fans play actively and enjoy watching other people play as well. Advertisers, in their turn, have keen interest in the new niche and want to develop it.
- Youtube and Twitch bloggers literally playfully earn hundreds of thousands of dollars. Tyler “Ninja” Blevins earned US$17 million last year through live-streaming Fortnite. Syed Sumail Hassan earned his first million in 2015 at the age of 16 by winning Dota 2 Championship together with his team.
- The Russian streaming market amounted to 0.5-1 billion rubles last year.
- Every third internet user watches live streams of video games on a regular basis.
Esports audience: who are they?
February to May 2020, according to Esports Charts, the audience of Twitch, the largest live streaming platform for gamers, increased on average by 78%. The most popular language on Twitch is English, the Russian language is the second most popular (15% of all live streams). The core of the audience (about 75%) is men aged 14 to 34 years.
Game developers have also noted a rise in the number of viewers. In summer, live streams of the popular online game League of Legends experience a traditional 20-30% drop in viewership in Europe and North America. This summer, however, the number of viewers increased by 16.7% and 30%, respectively, compared to spring.
Online as an advantage of esports
Most of the offline esports tournaments, like many other events, have been canceled this year. But the industry has moved online almost painlessly. Viewers can, like they did before, watch live streams from home, commentators and analysts work remotely, even members of the same team do not need to gather in one room.
Esports is a competitor to tradition
Esports has been a competitor to traditional sports for a long time already. Esports tournaments gather the same audience and, as a result, offer high earnings, attract big sponsors, advertisers and esports stars. What is more, esports is less dependent on pandemic-related restrictions than traditional sports.
For example, in November 2020, Unicorns of Love, the winner of the League of Legends Continental League, were invited to a very popular late-night talk show on Channel One Russia. Unicorns of Love were the first team with Russian players to qualify for play-offs at the world championship since 2016. They also set a viewership record among CIS teams with a peak of more than one million people tuning in.
- The first Russian series about esports “The Era of Bears” began in late-October. The main characters are Ilya, a 38-year-old former esports legend, and his daughter. Ilya dreams of reassembling a team and winning the world championship.
More ads, more money
The esports audience quality—its size, age, diversity—attracts big advertisers. If at first manufacturers of gaming devices and peripherals were main advertisers on the esports market, nowadays both youth- and adult-oriented brands advertise there. For example, Axe, Bose, Cisco, OPPO, Red Bull, Secretlab, Spotify, State Farm, Mastercard, Mercedes, Louis Vuitton found their audience at the 2020 League of Legends World Championship.
2021 forecasts for esports
- The esports audience will continue growing in 2021. It applies to both players and fans. In the world without lockdowns and quarantines, a natural, not a pandemic-driven, growth will come to the fore.
- The mobile esports niche has particularly strong prospects for further growth.
- Tournament operators will look for opportunities to host offline events. They might opt for a bubble system like the one used at the League of Legends finals in Shanghai. The tournament participants had no contact with the outside world throughout the event.
- The number of advertisers who are interested in the esports audience will continue to grow. New tools and services will be introduced, but attention of advertisers will still be focused on live streaming and sponsorship.