30 eSports Stats To Fuel Enthusiasm in 2021

From neon-lit faces in stuffy arcades to bodies drenched in floodlights on the world stage. The roaring of fans replaced the clink of quarters.

e-Thletes are now on par with mainstream athletes in more than a few ways.

Check out these eSports stats to find out just how prominent competitive gaming has become.

Stunning eSports Stats (Editor’s Choice)

  • eSports viewership was growing at a rate of 11.7% in 2020.
  • There were a total of 496 million eSports viewers in 2020.
  • 4.4 million monthly eSports players streamed on Twitch in 2020.
  • The average pro eSports player earned $5,000 in 2020.
  • The eSports industry reached $950 million in revenue in 2020.
  • $4.5 billion was invested in eSports in 2018.
  • The industry is projected to reach $1.5 billion by 2023.
  • 42% of viewers enjoy the adverts they see on stream.

What Is eSports?

eSports is the competitive playing of video games. It takes many forms—from casual tournaments on a local level to worldwide international events. In terms of structure and supporting industries, it now closely resembles (mainstream) sports.

The eSports statistics below reveal some interesting facts and trends in this competitive field.

How Big Is eSports and Where Is It Heading in 2021?

eSports have existed since the early days of gaming. Back in the days of cabinets, gamers used to compete in arcades and at local tournaments. The Space Invaders Championship of 1980, won by Rebecca Heineman, is considered the first major eSports event.

It wasn’t until the late 2000s, when the internet connections improved, that the rise of eSports really began, entering people’s homes and the mainstream scene. While eSports are usually viewed through online streaming, most high-level events do take place in physical arenas. We’ll get into the reasons behind this later.

1. 63.6% of eSports events in 2020 were streamed on Twitch.

(Source: Streamlabs)

The big three platforms for eSports streaming are Twitch, YouTube Gaming, and Facebook Gaming. eSports streaming statistics show that, following an established trend, Twitch held 63.6% of the viewership share in 2020.  YouTube streaming is growing rapidly, with the platform coming in second with 22.4%, while Facebook is third with 14%.

2. eSports viewership grew by 11.7% in 2020.

(Source: Influencer Marketing Hub)

The viewership growth in 2020 was 11.7% —down a percent from 2019’s 12.3%. The eSports growth rate for viewers is projected to decrease slightly, reaching 10.4% in 2023. These numbers indicate that eSports will see a steady, sustainable growth of viewership for the near future.

3. 496 million people tuned in to watch eSports tournaments in 2020.

(Source: Influencer Marketing Hub)

How popular is eSports? With an audience of nearly half a billion in 2020, the answer to that seems clear. That’s more than the current population of South America.

4. In 2020, 4.4 million players streamed the action to their viewers on Twitch.

(Source: Influencer Marketing Hub)

Each month of 2020, an average of 4.4 million eSports players streamed their gameplay over Twitch. This amounts to 889 billion minutes of content in one year. As streaming software becomes even more accessible, the numbers are likely to grow in 2021 and beyond.

5. The average pro eSports player earned $5,000 in 2020.

(Source: eSports Earnings)

In 2020, the average pro player in the eSports industry earned $5,000—down from the all-time peak average of $8,594 in 2019. Individual earnings still reached the hundreds of thousands in the upper brackets. But the Covid-19 crisis put a hold on in-person tournaments, severely dampening earnings in 2020.

Why not just hold them online? Input lag can hinder performance. In competitive games, wins can come down to split-second exchanges, so LANs (local area networks) are the preferred standard in tournament play. We’ll discuss how organizers are holding gaming competitions in 2021 below.

6. The largest single prize in eSports history is $3,000,000.

(Source: Guinness World Records)

In 2019, Kyle Giersdorf, gamertag “Bugha,” earned a cash prize of $3 million when he came out on top in the first-ever Fortnite World Cup. The tournament was held in Queens, New York, US.

7. The most attended eSports event in history drew in over 60,000,000 unique viewers.

(Source: LineUps)

An eSports industry analysis shows that the League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational attracted over 60 million viewers in 2018. The bulk of the viewership joined via stream, while a few thousand attended in person.

8. Team Liquid is the biggest eSports team, with a total of 1,922 tournaments under its belt.

(Source: eSports Earnings)

With representation in nearly every competitively played game and global membership, Team Liquid is the biggest eSports team in 2021. eSports industry statistics show it boasts combined winnings of $336,432,633 from 1,922 tournaments.

9. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) tournaments have paid out $15.85 million in 2020.

(Source: Statista)

Counter-Strike is one of the oldest names in FPS (First Person Shooters) that still carries a sizable player base in 2021. Its core gameplay loop and responsive design make it a favorite for casual and competitive play alike. It’s no surprise, given its tenure and numbers, that it holds the top spot for cumulative payouts in 2020 with over $15 million.

10. Shooting genres account for 50% of the top ten eSports.

(Source: LineUps)

Considering eSports streaming statistics, it’s clear shooting games, such as Fortnite and CS:GO, account for roughly half of the eSports. Strategy games account for 30%, while sports games account for the rest.

While they have dedicated fanbases, fighting and racing games go unmentioned because they’re still a niche in comparison to the others.

11. ESL saw a 90% viewership growth rate in 2019.

(Source: ESL)

Founded in 2000, ESL—previously known as Electronic Sports League—is the biggest and oldest eSports global company. If you can name an eSports game, the chances are that ESL has organized an event around it and broadcast it on Twitch. The only major game to start leaving its zone of influence is League of Legends, seeking more independent control over its broadcasting.

12. People from 18-22 spend 77% more time watching eSports compared to traditional sports.

(Source: Learning Hub)

We’ve spoken about eSports so far, but how does it stack up against its unplugged sibling? It appears to be making gains fast. In fact, the 18-22 age groups have more eSports vs sports viewers. League of Legends tournaments alone boast higher viewership numbers than every major American sports league except the NFL.

13. NBA legend Michael Jordan and others invested $26 million into eSports in 2018.

(Source: TechCrunch)

The basketball superstar has recognized the potential in eSports, leading a group that invested millions into Team Liquid’s parent company, aXiomatic. Facts about eSports are stoking the sports industry’s interest in investments.

Sports brands such as The Lakers in the US and Manchester City in the UK, to name a few, have started fielding eSports teams under their franchise. They provide training facilities on par with those of their sports teams, complete with uniforms bearing the same branding and signature characteristics.

eSports Demographics

Now that we know a bit about the industry at large, let’s zoom in a little and pick out some stats on eSports demographics for 2021.

14. Roughly 60% of eSports viewers are casual.

(Source: Influencer Marketing Hub)

In terms of dedicated and casual viewership, this is a good split. eSports has the depth to draw a sizeable hardcore fanbase while maintaining broader appeal to attract causal viewers too. eSports crowds statistics indicate that while the numbers will increase year upon year, the 40%-60% split will likely endure—a testament to stable growth.

15. 70% of US eSports viewers in 2019 were male.

(Source: VentureBeat)

While it is common for gaming to be a predominantly male space, this stat actually indicates a greater shift towards a balance. In 2016, the percentage of male viewers topped the 80% mark. The eSports statistics on gender ratio in the player base are far less optimistic.

16. Females make up only 5% of the eSports player base.

(Source: The Sports Integrity Initiative)

The number of pro-female eSports players is extremely low in comparison to males. Mixed-gender teams are commonplace and yet, the majority of players are still male. Not much research has been done into the reasons for the eSports stats leaning this way, but it’s speculated that the gaming culture is overwhelmingly male-centric.

17. The median age of eSports viewers is 29.

(Source: The Next Level)

eSports viewership statistics show that the average age of eSports viewers is a bit older than expected. With younger groups making up so much of the crowd, many assume they’re the majority. But eSports stats indicate that the median age is 29, which means that the number of older and younger players is equal. As you’ll see, the average player is noticeably younger.

18. The average age of a pro player is 24 for male players and 27 for female players.

(Source: ESPN)

The average age of eSports players is 24 for men and 27 for women. The ages also vary depending on the game. For example, Super Smash Bros sees an older age grouping around 25, whereas League of Legends has a younger player-base with 21 being the average.

The age of eSports stars differs from the average ages of sports stars in that eSports stars start their careers a lot younger and end them earlier too. That said, the early start doesn’t affect the average career length when one compares them to pro sports stars.

19. The average eSports career is five to ten years long.

(Source: eSportsLane)

eSports statistics show that the average eSports pro retires in their mid-20s. This is a little earlier than pro athletes, but, as we mentioned, eSport pros start a lot earlier too. In sports, players normally work their way through school and minor leagues before going pro. For eSport stars, the path is more direct, giving them an earlier start.

Once an eSports pro retires, their career in the industry isn’t over. The popularity of eSports means they can rely on their experience to transition into things like coaching, managing, and commentating.

The Fruits of the LAN, eSports Revenue in 2021

It should be clear by now that eSports is red hot, so how much loot is it stacking?

20. eSports generated roughly $950 million in revenue for 2020.

(Source: Daily eSports)

The yearly eSports revenue nearly broke the billion-dollar mark in 2020, with a wave of new interest and investment. This happened in spite of the fact that the Covid pandemic hindered the sales of tickets to physical events and the production of merchandise. That considered, it’s predicted that the revenue will continue to grow moving forward.

21. The eSport revenue is projected to top $1.5 billion by 2023.

(Source: Business Insider)

Forecasts predict a huge eSports market growth, surpassing the $1 billion mark and skyrocketing to $1.5 billion in 2023. This estimate is reasonable, considering the performance so far. Along with the increase in consumer interest across the board, investor interest in the market is also growing. In fact…

22. Over $4.5 billion was invested in eSports in 2018.

(Source: Deloitte) 

From 2014 to 2017, private firms made only nine investments into the eSports market. In 2018 alone, 11 investments were made. More was achieved in one year compared to the previous three years combined.

23. eSports is credited with helping the peripheral gaming market grow to a $4.25 billion industry in 2020.

(Source: Grand View Research)

The eSports industry size has reached a point where it has a noticeable effect on related industries. Of note is the impact of eSports on the gaming gear market. Look at any eSports player performing and you’ll immediately notice the equipment they’re using. Sleek angular headsets, glowing keyboards, mice with a few more buttons than you’re used to, and stylish outfits.

Everyone wants the latest peripherals for the competitive edge they promise or simply because they look great on Instagram.

24. eSports is still only worth about 25% that of the lowest-earning major sports league, the NHL.

(Source: Visual Capitalist)

While it’s still comparatively small, this only highlights how much room there is for the eSport market size to expand. The industries it’s being compared to are largely US-centric, while eSports is of global interest. This indicates a lot of potential for growth.

25. eSports betting sites’ earnings were expected to approach $2 billion in 2020.

(Source: Best US Casinos)

Another area in which eSports is starting to match more traditional sports is online betting. Professional sports revenue statistics reveal that eSport betting site earnings were near the $2 billion mark in 2020. This is an astronomical increase from 2015’s $24 million.

26. eSports’ biggest revenue stream is sponsorship, bringing 584.1 million.

(Source: Influencer Marketing Hub)

Projections on eSports revenue statistics for 2021 show that sponsorship will continue to be the industry’s greatest source of revenue, making up over 50%. Due to Covid restrictions merchandising and physical sales are expected to bring in far less, while digital revenue streams stand to gain ground.

27. 42% of viewers said they appreciate the ads on gaming streams.

(Source: Much Needed)

“Ads” is often used as a dirty word, but surveys indicate that eSports viewers often perceive them positively when watching streams. Viewers appreciate authenticity and the level of creative freedom streamers are given allows them to convey their signature style in ads.

This should illustrate how much money is in eSports, especially in advertising. Superbowl ads are often a highlight. With the right amount of creativity, eSports ads could follow a similar path.

eSports Still Has More Spawn Points To Capture

eSports growth statistics indicate that it’ll keep “zerg rushing” into new frontiers, compounding its sway.

28. Mobile gaming is seeing greater adoption into eSports.

(Source: The Loadout)

Particularly in poorer regions, such as South America and India, the eSports market size growth is driven largely by mobile gaming. It makes sense because, in these regions, mobile gaming is a cheap and efficient way to get plugged in. Mainstream titles like PUBG have increasingly backed mobile efforts.

29. Major eSports leagues are shifting to an online format in response to Covid restrictions.

(Source: The Verge)

With the world locked down due to the pandemic, eSports organizers have begun shifting to local online “league” formats in which regional teams play against each other. Despite being online, the relative closeness of the competitors minimizes technical hitches steaming from latency.

The pandemic also affected the eSports audience. With everyone staying at home, people are looking for entertainment and eSport viewership has increased. It’s predicted this online league format will become a mainstay even after lockdowns end.

30. Educational institutions are planning to further incorporate eSports programs.

(Source: Daily eSports)

The adoption of eSports into schooling and college continues. Coordinated efforts are underway to spread eSports further afield. For example, the British eSports Association will be hosting a virtual conference in 2021 that aims to develop eSports in educational institutions. This is bound to have a net positive effect on the eSports industry worth.

Wrap Up

With these eSports stats in mind, it should be patently obvious that the industry will keep leveling up. The prestige is already a given.

ABOUT AUTHOR

Unaware that life beyond the internet exists, Nick is poking servers and control panels, playing with WordPress add-ons and helping people get the hosting that suits them.

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