Although the global pandemic crippled virtually every industry and shuttered businesses all over the world, eSports and the video game industry were not only exempt from the financial carnage but thrived as a result. People were spending all of their time indoors, and with no other diversion, eSports became all the rage even in demographics that it didn’t normally attract.
And the reverberating effects went even further with online bookmakers suddenly offering odds on eSports tournaments like League of Legends, Counterstrike, Fortnight, Dota 2, or any number of other remote tournaments where prize money was at stake. Even professional handicappers, who routinely release their free NFL picks for the upcoming week, were suddenly capping eSports events and predicting tournament winners.
But the boom the pandemic provided was far from ephemeral as the numbers are still increasing. Many who would never have ventured into the realm of eSports have gotten the bug and are continuing to play despite the return of professional sports and the relaxing of restrictions as the COVID-19 cases have plummeted.
Let the data speak for itself. The global audience for eSports is anticipated to be 474 million people in 2021. This year, the worldwide eSports market is expected to be worth more than $1.08 billion, up about 50% from 2020.
The two most powerful financial forces driving eSports revenue growth were sponsorship and advertising. The combined total between the two was $641 million, with $192 million coming from media rights. To put it another way, eSports is a massive business, and it is continuing to increase in worldwide popularity.
What’s New in ’22?
During the height of the pandemic, Mark Deppe, director of the University of California Irvine Esports, spoke with Aaron Orlowski of UCI about where eSports were headed and what to expect next year and beyond.
“COVID-19 has been both a challenge and a boon for esports. More people are playing video games and watching online content than ever before. The UCI teams have been able to compete in collegiate tournaments from home. With that said, all major live events were canceled, including the Overwatch League matches in March and April and the League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational, which was originally scheduled for May. I think the sizzle of esports that comes with major live events is missing, but the community and broader ecosystem are thriving.”
SportingPedia noted, “Industry insiders believe that the future will open new horizons for the eSports industry development. New games with better quality will appear on the scene to cater to the constantly growing demand for new more engaging games. Some experts even consider that artificial intelligence will also find its place in eSports.
“In addition to that, more jurisdictions will regulate the eSports betting market. Recognizing the big potential of the eSports industry, a growing number of casinos started to accept wagers for eSports competitions. In 2018, Luxor Casino made the headlines after it was announced that the casino is ready to open the first purpose-built eSports arena on the Las Vegas Strip. We expect that this trend will continue and other land-based casinos will build such an arena.”
According to market research firm Ovum, the global esports business will be worth $1.9 billion in 2022. This reflects a 20.7 percent compound annual growth rate from an estimated $733 million back in 2017. Plenty of opportunities will avail themselves in the eSports industry according to Ovum’s statement.
“A wealth of opportunities remain as the developing market, which has been described by at least one observer as a ‘Wild West’, looks for a business model and structure that benefits all parties.
“The benefits of involvement – whether that be as broadcaster, streamer, infrastructure provider, tech platform, or simply a company eager to tap a youthful demographic with high discretionary spend – could be spectacular. Those looking to enter the fray need to understand where best to make a difference – and they should act quickly.”
Ovum also predicts sponsorship revenue will be the most lucrative moneymaker, reaching $578 million in 2022, accounting for more than 30% of total revenue. As businesses scramble to carve out a role in esports, advertising revenue will be earned mostly through sponsorship of teams or events. However, due to a combined audience topping 10 million for the most important events, streaming advertisement income will expand at a quicker rate.
Moreover, Ovum believes there will be more eSports venues, such as the HyperX Esports Arena at the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Greater interest in eSports and more locations to watch it will lead to ticket prices increasing over 21 percent. There will also be larger prizes for professional players and a greater emphasis on mobile eSports which allows greater accessibility.
The outlook is optimistic and the future is bright for 2022 and beyond, with all aspects of the video game industry thriving, including ancillary businesses that will be positively impacted.