by Kundan

Last Updated: Oct 30, 2023

WHAT WE HAVE ON THIS PAGE

Introduction

The esports industry has seen massive growth over the past decade, transforming from a niche community to a mainstream phenomenon. Esports refers to organized, multiplayer video game competitions, particularly between professional players. Major games like League of Legends, Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch have driven the esports boom.

This report will provide an in-depth look at the key esports statistics and trends shaping the industry in 2023. With a global audience projected to top 600 million this year, it’s clear that esports is here to stay as a powerful force in entertainment and culture.

Key Takeaways

  • Esports has ballooned into a $1 billion-plus industry and shows no signs of slowing momentum with projected 12%+ annual growth ahead.
  • Total audience size is forecast to exceed 600 million viewers in 2023, driven by the global popularity of competitive gaming.
  • Major brands like Mercedes and Pepsi are buying into esports through sponsorships while investors pour over $600 million into the industry in 2022.
  • China, South Korea, and North America make up dominant market regions although emerging markets will expand their esports presence.
  • The future outlook remains highly promising due to favorable demographic and technological trends including mobile gaming, VR/AR, and digital media.

Key Esports Statistics

Market Size

  • The global esports market generated revenues of $1.38 billion in 2021. This is expected to grow to $1.62 billion in 2022 and further to $2.81 billion by 2027. [Source: Statista]
  • Newzoo projects the esports economy will reach $1.62B in 2022, up +8.7% YoY. Brand investment is expected to grow +24.4% YoY to $634M in 2022. [Source: Newzoo]
  • North America accounts for the largest share (50%) of the global esports market. The Asia-Pacific region follows with a 27% market share. [Source: Mordor Intelligence]

Audience and Engagement

  • There were 474 million esports enthusiasts and occasional viewers globally in 2021. This number is forecast to grow to 592 million by 2024. [Source: Newzoo]
  • The total esports audience will reach 646 million people in 2023, made up of 223 million Esports Enthusiasts and 423 million Occasional Viewers. [Source: Newzoo]
  • 3 out of 4 esports viewers in the U.S. report watching more than 3 hours of esports content a week on average. [Source: Interpret]
  • YouTube Gaming and Twitch are the top platforms for watching esports streams and VODs (video on demand), with over 90% of viewership between them. [Source: Stream Hatchet]

Revenue Streams

  • Media rights and sponsorship deals will make up nearly 75% of worldwide esports revenues in 2022. [Source: Newzoo]
  • The esports betting market is estimated to be worth over $20.7 billion worldwide in 2022. [Source: Sharp Football Analysis]
  • Esports merchandise and ticket sales are projected to generate over $208 million globally in 2022. [Source: Statista]

Player and Team Earnings

  • The highest-paid esports player is Johan “N0tail” Sundstein, who has earned over $7.5 million from competitions during his career. [Source: Esportsearnings]
  • In 2021, the global prize money reached close to $93 million across over 4,000 tournaments. Dota 2 tournaments had the highest payouts at $47 million. [Source: Esportsearnings]
  • The most valuable esports team brand worldwide is TSM (Team SoloMid), valued at $533 million as of 2022. [Source: Forbes]

Key Trends and Developments

Mainstream Investors and Brands

Major brands like Mercedes-Benz, PepsiCo, and State Farm have invested heavily in esports sponsorships and marketing. Professional sports teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Rams also own esports franchises. This mainstream adoption shows esports is now an attractive opportunity for big brands.

Expansion Across Platforms

Esports streaming and competitions are expanding beyond just Twitch and YouTube to also appeal to users on TikTok, Facebook Gaming, and Snapchat. Cross-platform tournaments are also on the rise. This allows esports to tap into diverse new audiences across multiple channels.

Mobile Esports Uprising

Mobile gaming lends itself well to esports thanks to widespread smartphone ownership. Mobile esports is forecast to generate over $3 billion in consumer spending in 2022, or 59% of the total market. Popular mobile esports include Clash Royale, PUBG Mobile, and Call of Duty Mobile.

Virtual and Augmented Reality

The technologies of VR and AR allow esports to become more interactive and immersive for both competitors and spectators. VR can enhance training simulations while AR may improve live match broadcasts. Esports-focused VR gaming is also on the rise.

Increased Collegiate Participation

Over 170 colleges in the U.S. now have varsity esports programs recognized by the NCAA, complete with coaches, scholarships, and gaming facilities. This signals how esports is becoming integrated into collegiate athletic departments and attracting wider player pools.

Esports Games Market Share

The esports industry is driven by a few highly popular competitive gaming titles. Below we outline the share of the overall market for major esports games worldwide in 2022:

  • League of Legends: 29%
  • Counter-Strike: GO: 24%
  • Dota 2: 10%
  • Overwatch: 6%
  • Fortnite: 6%
  • Others (including Call of Duty, PUBG, FIFA): 25%

League of Legends from Riot Games is the clear market leader, accounting for close to one-third of total esports revenues. Valve’s Counter-Strike: GO also claims a significant share at 24% as one of the longest-standing esports titles. Noticeably, battle royale games like Fortnite and PUBG make up a smaller portion, pointing to the volatility and changing dynamics within esports genres.

Regional Esports Breakdown

Esports has developed substantially in certain geographic regions. Below we look at 3 key markets driving global growth:

North America

  • North America will generate $683 million in esports revenues in 2022, the largest market share globally. [Source: Newzoo]
  • Over 85 million people watched an esports tournament in 2021 across the U.S. and Canada. [Source: Interpret]
  • The U.S. accounts for nearly half of the total global esports audience. Major partners include the NBA, NFL, and NCAA. [Source: Enthusiast Gaming]

China

  • China’s esports market is forecast to be worth $300 million in 2022. This would be a 21% growth from 2021. [Source: Niko Partners]
  • There are over 75 million esports viewers in China. Tencent’s Honor of Kings is the most popular competitive title. [Source: Analytics Insight]
  • China has over 2,000 professional esports players signed to pro teams or clubs. Annual player salaries exceed $800,000 on average. [Source: SCMP]

South Korea

  • South Korea has the highest per capita rate of esports viewership in the world at over 17% of the population. [Source: TEO]
  • League of Legends is the most popular esports game in South Korea with 8 franchise teams in the LCK pro league. [Source: Inven Global]
  • The South Korean government actively supports esports, even allowing pro players to defer mandatory military service. [Source: CNN]

Major Esports Leagues and Tournaments

Well-organized leagues and massive tournaments underpin the structure of the esports industry. Here we overview some of the major events that attract huge audiences annually:

  • The League of Legends World Championship drew over 74 million peak concurrent viewers in 2021 across all platforms. [Source: Esports Charts]
  • Dota 2’s annual tournament The International has the largest prize pool, exceeding $40 million in 2021 thanks to crowdfunded contributions. [Source: DOT Esports]
  • The International Olympic Committee (IOC) hosted the Olympic Virtual Series in 2021 featuring virtual sports including esports. Over 250,000 participants joined across 100 countries. [Source: Olympics]
  • The League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) is the most popular LoL league in North America with average viewership exceeding 200,000. [Source: Esports Observer]
  • The Overwatch League (OWL) is the official global league for Blizzard’s Overwatch with 20 franchise teams based in North America, Europe, and Asia. [Source: Overwatch League]
  • The NBA 2K League features 23 esports franchises affiliated with actual NBA teams, bringing together competitive NBA 2K and basketball. [Source: NBA 2K League]

Esports Gambling and Betting

The rise of esports has also spurred growth in esports betting and gambling. Key statistics on this emerging market:

  • In 2022, over $20.7 billion will be wagered globally on major esports tournaments according to estimates. [Source: Sharp Football Analysis]
  • The esports betting market is projected to reach nearly $18 billion in the U.S. and over $26 billion in Europe by 2027. [Source: BusinessWire]
  • 80% of esports bettors also wager on traditional sports according to research. This crossover appeals to sportsbooks. [Source: Sharp Football Analysis]
  • League of Legends, CS:GO, Dota 2, and Overwatch make up over 60% of esports bets placed. FPS and MOBA games lend themselves well to wagering. [Source: Sportslens]
  • Popular esports betting sites include Unikrn, Loot.bet, GG.bet, BUFF.bet, and Betway. These cater to bettors globally with esports odds and markets. [Source: EsportsBets]

The crossover between esports fandom and betting participation is driving growth in this market. As competitions become more mainstream, legal esports betting is forecast to expand in many regions.

Impact of COVID-19 on Esports

The COVID-19 pandemic distinctly impacted the esports industry over 2020 and 2021:

  • Total esports viewership on Twitch increased 61% from March to April 2020 coinciding with lockdowns and restrictions. Engagement spiked with captive audiences. [Source: The Verge]
  • Many live esports events were cancelled or moved online. However, this led to innovations like more virtual and remote broadcasts. [Source: Forbes]
  • Total esports prize money declined in 2020 for the first time in several years, falling around 4% to $65.7 million. [Source: Esportsearnings]
  • Activision Blizzard’s revenues from esports increased 51% YoY in 2020 due to higher viewership and engagement during the pandemic. [Source: CNBC]
  • New esports investors and sponsors entered seeking to capitalize on momentum, including brands like Grubhub, DraftKings, and Verizon. [Source: SportsPro Media]

While negatively impacting live events, COVID-19 generated growth in viewership and drew attention to esports from brands, media companies, and investors.

Future Outlook and Projections

Based on the growth trajectories and adoption we’ve seen, here are 3 projections on where esports is headed next:

  • Global esports revenues will experience an annual growth rate (CAGR) of +12% between 2022-2027, reaching over $2.8 billion by the end of the period according to projections. [Source: Mordor Intelligence]
  • Emerging regions in South America, the Middle East, and Africa seem poised for esports expansion next. Rising internet access and tech infrastructure will enable wider participation. [Source: Mordor Intelligence]
  • Esports will increase its cultural footprint through deeper partnerships with music, fashion, and entertainment brands. More celebrities and influencers are expected to promote and invest in esports. [Source: Insider Intelligence]

Esports has moved rapidly from niche to mainstream, but still likely represents only a fraction of future potential. The industry’s upward trajectory points to many opportunities still ahead.

Conclusion

In summary, the esports industry has experienced remarkable growth over the past decade into a billion-dollar market. Key factors propelling this expansion include growing online viewership, competitive gaming culture, higher prize pools, brand/investor interest, live streaming platforms, and the pandemic boost.

China, North America, and South Korea make up the bulk of esports revenues currently. However, emerging markets across South America, Africa, and the Middle East look to drive more growth through rising engagement. The future outlook remains highly promising according to analysts as esports gains greater cultural significance.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most popular esports games?

The most popular competitive esports titles currently are League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, Overwatch, Fortnite, and Call of Duty. League of Legends commands the biggest share of the market.

How many people watch esports?

In 2022, the total global esports audience is forecast to be 593 million people. This includes both dedicated fans who watch competitions regularly as well as occasional viewers.

How much money do top esports players make?

The highest paid esports athletes can earn millions in competition winnings and endorsements. Top players like N0tail and OG have earned over $7 million during their careers. Salaries for pro players can exceed $300,000.

Is the esports betting market growing?

Yes, esports betting is seeing rapid growth in tandem with esports popularity. The global market is estimated to reach $20.7 billion in 2022. Esports wagering is forecast to keep rising in regions like North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific.

What percentage of esports viewers are female?

In 2021, an estimated 35% of esports enthusiasts globally were female according to research from Interpret. This reflects the industry’s rising appeal to both women and men. However, viewership skews predominantly male overall.

Which college has the best esports program?

Currently, the top university esports programs in North America are at the University of California Irvine, Boise State University, Miami University, University of Utah, and Georgia State. These schools offer scholarships and have high-level varsity gaming and training facilities.


ABOUT AUTHOR

by Kundan

Kundan Goyal possesses a wealth of experience in Digital Marketing, offering valuable insights to businesses of all sizes. He actively contributes to industry-specific PR, news outlets, and forums, shaping discussions and driving forward-thinking strategies. Outside of work, HE enjoys carrom and has a deep passion for news editing and research. His strength lies in helping companies make informed, strategic decisions and predicting future trends. With his dedication and innovative approach, he is a versatile professional who brings a unique blend of skills and expertise to the ever-evolving digital landscape, enabling businesses to thrive in this dynamic environment.