Description

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the US eSports market, including the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Like much of the entertainment industry, the eSports industry was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The cancellation of in-person events saw the global eSports revenue fall by 1.1%, as well as the postponement of construction on dedicated eSports venues due to restrictions. The lack of physical events hindered growth, with locations still yet to open and events maybe not happening until 2022.

Despite this major disruption, gaming platforms have seen a boost as many new and existing viewers look to watching gameplay online. A third of adults have watched esports in the past year, with 35% of gaming content viewers starting to watch people play games online in the past year.

This new focus on digital broadcasting and livestreaming allows for more non-gaming brands to get involved in the industry, with three quarters of viewers supporting brands that sponsor events. Despite more fans now see esports as a form of entertainment than a high-stakes competition, more traditional sports organisations are beginning to partner with events to create digital extensions of real world play.

Read on to discover more details or take a look at all of our US Leisure Time market research.

Quickly understand

  • The impact of COVID-19 on consumer behavior and esports.
  • How brands can partner with esports organizations, teams and players to reach fans.
  • What the balance of online and in-person esports events is going to look like.
  • Which games/genres have succeeded in a tumultuous year and which have stumbled.

Covered in this report

Games: Call of Duty, NBA 2K, Fortnite, League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket League, Madden, Counter-Strike, Minecraft, PUBG, Super Smash Bros, Street Fighter, Need For Speed, FIFA, F1, Valorant.

Platforms: YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, cable TV, Caffeine, MLG.TV

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by John Poelking, a leading analyst in the Food & Drink sector, his extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

In the face of setbacks brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, esports managed to continue growing its audience by emphasizing online events, tapping into professional players streaming outside of competitions and piggybacking off the success of the overall gaming industry in 2020. In-person events might face an uphill battle, but there are still plenty of opportunities for brands to work with esports organizations, teams and players to connect to an excited fanbase.

John Poelking
Senior Gaming Analyst

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
    • This Report looks at the following areas
    • Definition
    • Market context
    • Economic and other assumptions
    • COVID-19: market context
  2. Executive Summary

    • Top takeaways
    • Market overview
      • Figure 1: Global esports revenue, 2018-21 (est)
    • Impact of COVID-19 on esports
      • Figure 2: Impact of COVID-19 on gaming and esports, June 2021
    • Opportunities and challenges
    • Lagging behind traditional sports but still growing
      • Figure 3: Recency of watching/broadcasting gaming content and sports, 2020-21
    • Interests within esports are expanding
      • Figure 4: Number of games/genres watched, 2020-21
    • YouTube, Facebook double down on gaming content
      • Figure 5: Where games are watched, 2020-21
    • Perceptions of esports are improving
      • Figure 6: Perceptions of esports as a sport, 2020-21
    • eSports players are closer to influencers than athletes
      • Figure 7: Attitudes toward esports athletes, April 2021
  3. The Market – Key Takeaways

    • A slower recovery for esports
    • Sponsorships drive global revenue
    • Gameplay fuels trends in esports
    • Brighter days ahead
  4. Global eSports Market Size

    • eSports revenue set to recover after slight setbacks in 2020
      • Figure 8: Global esports revenue, 2018-21 (est)
    • Impact of COVID-19 on esports
    • Immediate impacts (2020)
    • Short term (2021)
    • Recovery (2022-25)
    • Learnings from the last recession
    • Sports sponsorship spending took a small hit
      • Figure 9: US sports sponsorship spending, 2006-09
    • Gaming remained a viable option for entertainment
  5. Global Segment Performance

    • Brand sponsorships make the biggest impact on esports revenue
      • Figure 10: Global esports revenue, by revenue stream, 2021 (est)
    • Digital sales and broadcasting poised to see big gains in 2021
      • Figure 11: Year over year growth of esports revenue streams, 2020 vs 2021
  6. Target Audience – The US Gamer

    • Who are gamers?
      • Figure 12: Profile of US gamers, by key demographics, April 2021
    • Mobile attracts the largest audience
      • Figure 13: Gaming devices used, April 2021
    • Gaming is a daily habit
      • Figure 14: Frequency of gaming and weekly hours, April 2021
    • Casual gaming is common
      • Figure 15: Reasons to play video games, April 2021
    • Puzzle and board games have the largest audience
      • Figure 16: Preferred gaming genres – Any rank, October 2020
  7. Market Factors

    • eSports faces stiff competition from more established competitions
      • Figure 17: Sports followed, April 2021
    • Vaccine could quell fears for attending live sports in 2021
      • Figure 18: Attitudes toward returning to live sports, August 2020
    • Live streaming becomes crucial, especially among young adults
      • Figure 19: Social media viewing, by age, February 2021
    • Investments coming back to bolster esports
  8. Companies and Brands – Key Takeaways

    • Focusing on content creation and athletes’ wellbeing enhances esports
    • Opening up opportunities for new players to get their shot
  9. Competitive Strategies

    • Hardware partnerships explore new areas
      • Figure 20: @NBA2KLeague PS5 announcement Twitter post, April 2021
      • Figure 21: @samsungmobileusa Twitch Rivals announcement Instagram post, February 2021
    • Utilize sponsors for extra content outside competition
    • Flex schedules create bigger opportunities for sponsors
    • Emphasizing health of players
    • eSports tools get major investments
  10. Market Opportunities

    • Opening up opportunities for a more diverse playing field
    • eSports falling behind social awareness campaigns
      • Figure 22: Awareness of social justice initiatives in sports, November 2020
    • Call of Duty League brings popular franchise to competitive stage
      • Figure 23: @CODLeague USAA announcement Twitter post, February 2021
    • Converging with mainstream sports
      • Figure 24: @rocketleague NASCAR Instagram post, May 2021
    • Expanding merchandise and branding opportunities
      • Figure 25: @g2esports Adidas Instagram post, January 2021
    • Academic esports gets further investments
    • Reaching younger viewers through non-violent competitions
      • Figure 26: @gengesports Toyota Sienna Dream Builds Instagram post, March 2021
  11. The Consumer – Key Takeaways

    • One third of adults watch esports
    • A new audience is looking for opportunities to learn
    • Maintaining esports momentum will be important in 2021
    • Newer and older games are starting to attract an esports audience
    • YouTube is a go-to gaming destination in a confusing media landscape
    • A sunnier disposition toward esports has arrived
    • Fans want to support players directly
  12. Watching eSports and Gaming Content

    • One third of adults have watched esports in the past year
      • Figure 27: Profile of esports viewers, by key demographics, April 2021
    • Casual game viewing outreaches esports competitions
      • Figure 28: Recency of watching/broadcasting gaming content and sports, April 2021
    • Gaming content gains a larger audience in 2021
      • Figure 29: Recency of watching/broadcasting gaming content and sports, 2020-21
  13. When People Started Watching Gaming Content

    • eSports have brought people into gaming content over the past year
      • Figure 30: When people started watching gaming content, any gaming content viewer vs esports viewers, April 2021
    • Young viewers have always been into gaming content, but middle-aged viewers are just getting started
      • Figure 31: When people started watching gaming content, by age, April 2021
    • Parents with teens are starting to tune in
      • Figure 32: When people started watching gaming content, by age of children, April 2021
    • Clearing up confusion, diversifying lineups could bring people to esports
      • Figure 33: Barriers to watching gaming content, April 2021
  14. eSports in 2021

    • Established esports viewers are ready for more
      • Figure 34: Expectations for the frequency of watching esports, any gaming content viewer vs esports viewers, April 2021
    • Video game streaming, investments became more important over 2020
      • Figure 35: Behavior changes since COVID-19 pandemic, April 2021
    • Action game fans invigorate interest in game streaming
      • Figure 36: Behavior changes since COVID-19 pandemic, by select games watched, April 2021
  15. What Games are Watched

    • A larger audience watches a greater variety of games
      • Figure 37: Number of games/genres watched, 2020-21
    • Viewers split between individual and team-based games
      • Figure 38: Team vs individual games, April 2021
    • Call of Duty breaks out as other older games grow their audience
      • Figure 39: Games and genres of games watched, 2020-21
    • Millennials look to established titles for entertainment…
      • Figure 40: Games and genres driven by Millennials, by generation, April 2021
    • …while Gen Z looks to newer games
      • Figure 41: Games and genres of games driven by Gen Z, by generation, April 2021
  16. Where Games are Watched

    • An abundance of options confuses the average viewer
      • Figure 42: Attitudes toward where to watch esports, April 2021
    • Most viewers aren’t going to many destinations
      • Figure 43: Number of platforms where games are watched, April 2021
    • YouTube dominates, but smaller platforms see some gains
      • Figure 44: Where games are watched, 2020-21
    • Age helps dictate platform preferences
      • Figure 45: Where games are watched, by age, April 2021
  17. Supporting eSports: In-person and Online

    • eSports fans are looking for brand support
      • Figure 46: Attitudes toward where to watch esports, April 2021
    • More viewers are seeing esports as a sport
      • Figure 47: Perceptions of esports as a sport, 2020-21
    • Online events will continue to be important
      • Figure 48: In-person vs online esports viewing, any gaming content viewer vs esports viewers, April 2021
    • The US has an opportunity to grow influence through live events
      • Figure 49: Interest in live and international esports, April 2021
  18. Supporting eSports Athletes

    • Fans create direct connections by supporting professional players
      • Figure 50: Recency of spending on professional gamers, all vs esports viewers, April 2021
    • Players feel they have leveled up over the past year…
      • Figure 51: Perceptions of skills to be a professional gamer, 2020-21
    • …but a perception that esports players are athletes remains low
      • Figure 52: Perceptions of esports athletes as athletes, 2020-21
    • Treating players as people will strengthen engagement
      • Figure 53: Attitudes toward esports athletes, April 2021
  19. Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

    • Data sources
    • Sales data
    • Consumer survey data
    • Abbreviations and terms
    • Abbreviations
    • Terms

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