what is esports?
The world of competitive video gaming is a fast-growing international phenomenon with millions of fans and billions of dollars up for grabs. Streaming services and live events have turned casual gamers into serious stars who can sometimes rake in seven-figure earnings and massive brand endorsements.
The esports community is growing at a ridiculous rate. Gamers everywhere are embracing it, swarming to tournaments like moths to a flame. Viewers are tuning in also, making esports one of the most viewed sports out there. You might assume that the vast majority of hardcore gamers are single teenage boys and middle-aged men living in their parents’ basement. This is not the reality of esports. In fact, the demographics of esports are becoming more and more diverse all the time.
When thinking of the sheer number of participants in the esports community, you have to consider a few things. First off, who is playing these games? How many men and women? How old are they? Do they have kids? What games are they playing? Which countries have the most esports participants? On the other end, who is watching? How many people are watching? What are they watching? Esports has grown into something big enough to bet on, like poker or any other game, and something big enough to award large sums of prize money to the winning teams. So who is betting? Where is this phenomenon most popular? Here are some numbers that will provide some insight and put into perspective just how large this community has become. We have a lot of ground to cover, so get ready.
Esports wouldn’t be anything close to what it is today if it weren’t for the millions of fans who follow these games, tournaments, and teams. Any avid gamer knows that there is a lot of value in watching other players to improve their own gameplay, but actually, most viewers watch simply to witness top-tier gaming at its finest. Gamers and gaming fans alike tune in to Twitch to watch elite gamers show their skills, and ultimately demonstrate how much room there is for glory and mastery in esports. So who is watching?
A report from Eventbrite stated that, in overall esports viewership at events, a whopping 82% of players were male. A little over half (52%) were from the U.S., while the other 48% were from Europe. That’s 18% from Germany, 18% from the U.K., and the remaining 8% from various other European countries. 75% of these viewers were between the ages of 18 and 34, and 44% were college students. That’s a pretty wide range, even compared to other sports.
Esports Prize Pools: $155.9M (2018)
Esports prize pools have grown significantly in the past few years. What’s interesting is that these prize pools are now rivaling some of the largest prize pools in traditional sports. Below we take a look into how esports prize pools compare to traditional sports, and how they’ve grown.
In the chart below, you will see the top 10 events, by prize pools, across all sports. Out of these ten, two of the top prize pools were in esports: The International 2018 (Dota 2) and League of Legends World Championship.
Dota 2 isn’t the only esports title with an exorbitant prize pool. In 2018 the top 10 titles, based on prize pools, eclipsed $130M. What actually makes Dota 2 even more interesting is that the majority of the The International prize pool is crowdfunded. In 2018, the base prize pool was $1.6M. On top of that, $23.9M was crowdfunded by the community (i.e. donated by enthusiasts and fans).
Esports are quickly carving out a global place for themselves as a viable and lucrative sport for gamers. The prize money being awarded certainly shows how seriously it’s being taken. It is becoming a highly aspirational career, with kids and young adults today being just as likely to dream of becoming a League of Legends star as a star baseball player. Esports prize pools continue to grow for the competitive scene of video games, currently mimicking the earnings of professional golfers and tennis players. This might not be the case in 10 years as high salary and multi-year contracts might become more common. However, today the professional esports athlete relies on tournament winnings, streaming, and sponsorship deals for their income. With this trajectory, esports prize pools and athlete compensation may quickly compete with the top traditional sports athletes in the not-so-distant future.