Many around the world found the 2020 the most challenging time in their lives for the worldwide lockdown measures caused by the Novel COVID-19 pandemic; however, gamers across the globe took this as an opportunity to catch up on their stacks of videogames while watching their favorite streamers or esports teams compete at the highest level of play.
Due to this, games and esports fans pushed the live streaming industry to new heights as online content creators and esports teams took this time to really shine in order to grab the attention of their respective audiences.
Live streaming audience to amass massive growth this year and beyond
Last year, the pandemic had a positive business effect on the esports and live-streaming markets alike.
On the live-streaming side, lockdown measures resulted in spiking viewership across all platforms. More consumers were—and still are—confined to their homes, driving them to spend more time on platforms like Twitch, YouTube, and Huya.
According to Amsterdam-based games and esports data company Newzoo, the global games live streaming audience will reach 728.8 million by the end of 2021, a +10 percent increase over 2020’s audience number. “The pandemic has certainly accelerated—and will continue to accelerate—the live streaming audience, but we expect stabilization once the pandemic subsides,” a recent report by Newzoo said.
To that end, audience growth rates will progressively return to their more natural levels by 2024, when the live-streaming audience total will hit 920.3 million. Nevertheless, emerging markets and regions will stay on their path of double-digit growth.
This growth will also be driven by mobile gaming’s popularity in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, Central Southern Asia, and Southeast Asia. “Countries in these regions (especially China) are pushing the streaming audience ever-closer toward the one-billion mark—a feat that seemed unfathomable even five years ago,” the report noted.
In accordance, China will have the most esports enthusiasts in 2021 with 92.8 million, followed by the U.S. and Brazil. The country will also be the largest market for games live streaming, with an audience of 193.0 million in 2021.
In parallel, China is also the largest market by revenues, with total revenues of $360.1 million in 2021. This is up +14.0 percent from 2020’s total of $315.1 million. It is followed by North America, with total revenues of $243.0 million, and Western Europe, with total revenues of $205.8 million.
Esports on track for healthy audience growth
The global esports audience will grow to 474.0 million in 2021, a year-on-year growth of +8.7 percent. According to Newzoo, esports enthusiasts—those who watch more than once a month—will account for just under half of this number (234 million), also growing +8.7 percent year on year.
As you can see in the image above, the global esports audience will continue to grow with a CAGR of +7.7 percent to 577.2 million in 2024; while, in parallel, the market will pass the half-a-billion mark in 2022.
Like in the steaming ecosystem, growth markets will drive much (but not all) of esports’ future audience growth. Ongoing infrastructure developments are continuing to empower residents in these areas. Another factor in the strong audience growth is mobile, which has now entered the upper echelon of the esports market.
It is worth mentioning that The League of Legends World Championship was 2020’s biggest tournament by live viewership hours on Twitch and YouTube, with 91.9 million hours. League of Legends Champions Korea Summer was the most-watched league by live viewership hours on Twitch and YouTube, generating 53.9 million hours.
Engagements to generate more revenues in the esports market
As ever and despite pandemic-related challenges, the growing esports audience and engagement will trickle into increased spending. Global esports revenues will hit just shy of $1.1 billion by the end of 2021, a year-on-year growth of +14.5 percent 2020’s from $947.1 million.
In 2021, $833.6 million in revenues—over three-quarters of the total market—will come from media rights and sponsorship.
“The instability caused by the pandemic, however, has negatively impacted some key esports revenue streams. The cancelation of in-person events diminished ticket revenues while also having a knock-on effect on merchandise across the board,” Newzoo explained.
Nevertheless, the pandemic has undoubtedly underlined the resilience of regional ecosystems for the wider market, which may shift strategies and ensure a more secure esports market for the future.
What’s more, team organizations are beginning to diversify more, which may also foster a more stable market for the years to come.