Esports viewership is reaching new heights, with 474 million viewers worldwide in 2021.
That’s according to the latest research by Newzoo, the Amsterdam-based market researcher. In its report, Newzoo wrote that, among the 474 million people who said they watch esports, 234m consider themselves enthusiasts, while 240m watch esports occasionally. This makes esports more popular than some major traditional sports such as American Football, which hovers around 400 million viewers worldwide.
The global COVID-19 pandemic is probably the most prominent reason for the recent growth in viewership. With millions of people sitting at home, video games were a logical pastime for many. On the other hand, the sports industry struggled even to hold events, let alone expand its audience. Once the world went into lockdown, traditional sports all but died. With esports, however, live events were never as crucial for audience outreach. Fans were already accustomed to streaming services like Twitch, and all esports games can be played over the Internet. It was just a matter of reorganization.
As with sports, betting sites struggled to adapt to the new pandemic reality. Without any live sporting events going on, traditional sportsbooks started losing punters to new betting sites that covered esports betting. Just as the sports industry lost billions, so did countless online sportsbooks. Meanwhile, the esports industry flourished.
Sponsorships were the largest revenue stream for esports in the past year, accounting for $641 million of total revenue.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Not even for digital sports. Events and organizations that relied on live crowds and stadium-like experiences had to reschedule or completely cancel their events due to the pandemic. One such event was arguably the world’s largest festival: Dota 2 International 2020. Originally scheduled for late August 2020, it is now sitting on standby while Valve waits for the approval of the Swedish government to hold the event in 2021.
By 2024, the global esports audience will reach 577 million.
Even with these slight bumps along the way, there’s no stopping esports. Newzoo’s experts predict that the global esports audience will reach nearly 600 million worldwide in the forthcoming years. We’re definitely in the golden era of esports, and things are only looking to improve.