Okay, it’s time that I confess – I have only been watching eSports for about a year. Sure, I’d seen the odd match or two before then, but it’s only been in the last 12 months or so that I’ve actually watched, and enjoyed, professional gamers playing games. But I’m not alone, and it’s a growing trend.
According to research group SuperData, eSports (also referred to as competitive gaming) is a rapidly growing market; viewership has increased almost eight-fold in the last four years. In fact, viewership doubled in the past year, growing to over 70 million in 2013. Half of those viewers are from the United States and the average eSports viewer watches games 19 times a month, with a session length of about 2.2 hours.
Interestingly, eSports now outstrips mainstream sports viewership in America, with viewers of the League of Legends Season 3 World Championships more than doubling that of Major League Baseball’s World Series. That’s right – more people are watching LoL than are watching America’s “favorite pastime”.
Of course, this means that more and more publishers are investing in eSports. Riot and Wargaming are industry leaders in this regard, but Valve and Blizzard are also on board. Growth is expected to continue into 2014.
What is causing this surge? Well, researchers infer that it’s mainly due to the growth among Western viewers. eSports has been popular in Korea and China for many years, but now its popularity is taking hold in the US and Europe. As a result, the market has simply exploded as millions of new viewers are jumping onto twitch, MLG.tv and other streaming channels to watch all their favorite eSports professionals battle it out.
Let’s just hope that South Africa can also jump onto this bandwagon. The DGL is seeing record numbers – now we just need for teams to be able to stream more games and we can all get involved.