Total revenue for esports is on track to hit over 1 billion dollars by the end of 2019. The industry now boasts over 5 premier titles, many of which are quickly becoming household names. Viewership for some of these games are even starting to contest the numbers of traditional sports.
Since 2017, esports viewership has risen by an average of 60 million each year. This trend is expected to continue well into 2022.
Over half of this audience is located in Asia. Comparatively, North America accounts for only 12 percent of the viewers. Leagues and franchises such as the League Champion Series (LCS) and the Overwatch League (OWL) have brought much-needed organization and professionalism to the scene.
It is now common for large mega-corporations to sponsor with gaming companies as a means of advertisement on their platforms. As a result, many reporting agencies and traditional sports platforms such as ESPN have begun to cover competitive gaming.
Viewership by game
League of Legends
It’s no surprise that League of Legends (LoL) tops the charts again as this year’s largest esport. The game has had a long history since its release in 2009. With deep roots in Asian and North American markets, LoL boasts a player base of over 100 million monthly players.
RIOT, the game’s developer, always prioritizes the management of the LCS which helps the esport grow steadily each year. In addition to LoL’s record-holding peak viewership counts, League’s Worlds 2018 tournament had over 90 million unique viewers. 2019 Worlds is looking to break records as well with an unprecedented 2 million+ concurrent viewers during the group stages.
Fortnite revolutionized the landscape for gaming in general with its massive surge of popularity a couple years ago. Since then the game has received incredible amounts of media attention and has attained a large presence within pop culture.
It is currently the biggest game in the world with 250 million players. Despite some controversies over certain gameplay patches, 2019 has been a good year for Fortnite’s esports viewership as well.
The recent World Cup finals broke the concurrent viewership record with over 2 million viewers. However, this record has since been overtaken by LoL. Although esports numbers have gone up, Fortnite’s general Twitch viewership has begun to stagnate.
Within the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre Dota 2 remains LoL’s primary competition. Dota’s The International (TI) boasts some of the highest prize pools in esports and has a similar size fanbase to match it.
Peak viewership for TI9 hit 1.9 million, falling just short of LoL’s Worlds. That being said, TI9’s viewership was a 63 percent increase compared to TI8 in 2018 which only had around a 700,000 peak viewership.
These numbers make a great case for Dota 2 as one of the fastest-growing esports in the world. 2020 will be an important year for the game as it looks to catch up to LoL.
Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch centers its professional scene primarily around the Overwatch League. The league offers franchising and organizational benefits similar to the LCS. Blizzard’s connections within North American markets has helped the league and its teams sign deals with large companies such as Twitch, Marvel, Toyota, Intel, T-Mobile and more.
Despite this, the game’s esport viewership remains quite bleak. 2018 saw decent results for OWL’s inaugural season, with Stage 1 hitting around 430,000 viewers. Since then this number has only declined with the Grand Finals of Season 2 hitting only 318,000 viewers.
Many argue that the fault falls on Blizzard for their lackluster management of the game and questionable development priorities. This is further supported by the large amounts of community backlash surrounding Blizzard’s recent controversial gameplay patches and political stances.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) has been a mainstay of the FPS esport scene since early 2013. 2018 was a flagship year for the game with the ELEAGUE Major hitting a 1.3 million viewer peak.
Many expected 2019 to be an even better year for CS:GO. Unfortunately, this didn’t quite pan out, with IEM Katowice 2019 hitting a peak of only 1.25 million. A large sum for sure, but a far cry from the original predictions of 1.6 million and above.
Declining viewership combined with recent controversies surrounding top team Astralis and the BLAST circuit paint a worrisome picture for CS:GO’s future. With the next major coming up in May, CS:GO will have until early 2020 to revitalize their scene and resolve any existing issues surrounding their pro circuit.
Written by Jash Rai