There is little doubt among industry analysts that we are experiencing a golden era in video gaming. Similar to what happened with the advent of affordable home gaming consoles a couple of decades ago, the launch of new gaming gear that takes the experience to the new level without breaking the bank, as well as faster Internet, have triggered a renaissance in the industry. More and more people are joining the worldwide gaming community every day, and there is a growing segment of the industry that seems to have captivated younger audiences in particular: eSports.
The Rise of Professional Competitive Gaming Tournaments
What is truly revolutionary about the current era in gaming is that for the first time so many fans are interested not only in playing games, but also in watching professionals excel in playing their favorite titles. eSports, organized competitive video gaming tournaments where professional players battle against each other to win glory and coveted prizes – which often translate to hefty sums of money – have been rising in popularity in recent years. Games with millions of fans like League of Legends, DotA or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive have their very own tournaments that attract millions of fans. The interest in the tournament outcomes is so great that they have even conquered the world of online betting, with providers like Betway offering eSports punting alongside traditional sports wagers. Very tellingly, Blizzard, the developers behind popular game Overwatch, have dubbed their Overwatch eSports tournament the “Overwatch World Cup” – with players competing in national teams that represent countries instead of professional teams. Recently, even mobile games like Fortnite have entered the eSports race, offering an impressive prize pool.
Younger Audiences Drive eSports Appreciation and Wider Recognition
The frenzy over eSports is growing – but it seems that older audiences are still trying to grasp the whole concept behind competitive gaming. The generation gap when it comes to eSports appreciation extends to how different age groups perceive the trend. According to a recent study conducted in September 2018 and published on Statista, while 34% of US adults responded that they have seen, read or heard about this type of professional gaming competitions, the figure skyrocketed to 59% in the segment of adults aged between 18 and 29 years old. Similarly, while 18% of respondents stated that they consider eSports a sport, the same statement is endorsed by an impressive 37% of those aged 18-29. Whether eSports are a sport is still debated both within and outside the community, yet the industry is slowly yet surely gaining wider recognition. It has been reported lately that eSports might feature as a sport in some form in the upcoming Olympic Games, a step that would shed more light on the genre. Gaming has even become the subject of movies like Steven Spielberg’s recent Ready Player One based on the novel by the same title that has amassed a cult following.
eSports Viewership Rests on Younger Demographic
A breakdown of the key demographics that foster eSports viewership reveals the importance of younger audiences in the recent popularity boost the industry has seen. According to the 2018 eSports Trends Report by Global Web Index, a research firm that specializes in consumer marketing analysis, 1 in 3 eSports fans are aged between 20 and 25 years old. According to the study, a whopping 38% of eSports enthusiasts are aged under 24 years old, while 25% are aged 25-34 and a further 19% fall under the 35-44 age group. However, as older age groups are examined, the numbers drop significantly. Only 6% of eSports fans are between 45 and 54 years old, while a mere 3% are aged 55-64. All in all, 15% of internet users follow eSports, while viewers are mostly male, who comprise 71% of the total audience, as opposed to female viewers who make up the remaining 29%. Young fans are also interested in learning more about their favorite players, by reading interviews in gaming magazines or subscribing to their online channels on popular platforms like Twitch. In fact, 37% of eSports enthusiasts state that observing the skill level of their favorite players is among the top reasons for watching, while a further 31% stated they like the different personalities across professional gamers.
With eSports franchise leagues established and sponsors becoming increasingly interested in setting up their own professional teams, the industry is getting closer to the traditional sports model – much to the delight of young and older fans worldwide.