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Study: Global esports revenues to hit almost US$1.1bn in 2021

Newzoo report also projects competitive gaming’s total audience to grow to 474m this year.

9 March 2021 Ed Dixon

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  • Esports revenue set for 14.5% YoY increase
  • Games live streaming audience expected to reach 920.3m by 2024

The global esports audience will grow to 474 million in 2021, with revenues from competitive gaming set to be just shy of US$1.1 billion by the end of this year, according to market researcher Newzoo.

The rise in esports’ audience represents year-on-year (YoY) growth of 8.7 per cent. Of that 474 million, esports enthusiasts – recorded as those who watch competitive gaming more than once a month – will account for just under half of the overall figure, up 8.7 per cent YoY to 234 million.

Newzoo’s 2021 Global Esports and Live Streaming Market Report also expects that the total competitive gaming audience will continue to grow with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.7 per cent to 577.2 million in 2024.

The study attributes the audience increase to ongoing infrastructure developments in growth markets that encourage participation, as well as the rise of mobile gaming.

The increased engagement will result in more revenue in the esports market. Newzoo anticipates revenues this year to come to just under US$1.1 billion, a 14.5 per cent increase on the US$947.1 million projected last year. Of this year's US$1.1 billion revenue figure, US$833.6 million will come from media rights and sponsorship.

However, the study points out that instability from Covid-19 has negatively impacted some key esports revenue streams. Notably, the cancellation of in-person events has diminished ticket revenues while also having a knock-on effect on merchandise across the board. 

Despite this, Newzoo says that 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’. It adds that team organisations are beginning to diversify more, which may also ‘foster a more stable market’ for the years ahead.

Newzoo also looked at the live streaming market, with lockdown resulting in a spike in viewership across all platforms.

As a result, the study says the live streaming audience for games will reach 728.8 million by the end of 2021, a ten per cent increase over 2020’s audience number.

That rise is expected to stabilise once Covid restrictions are lifted, but growth rates are still expected over the next few years. The live streaming audience total is on target to hit 920.3 million by 2024.

Emerging markets and regions are expected to stay on course for double-digit growth. This 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. Newzoo acknowledges that feat ‘seemed unfathomable even five years ago’. 

In other esports market news, research and analytics firm Juniper Research has estimated that the global esports and games streaming business will be worth more than US$3.5 billion by 2025, up from US$2.1 billion in 2021. 

Growing audiences have been cited as the main contributor for the jump. The bulk of market value will be driven by subscription spend to streaming platforms and advertising spend over streams.

Juniper Research has also predicted that there will be more than one billion esports and games viewers by 2025, up from 800 million viewers by the end of this year.

The Asia Pacific region will represent more than half of the esports and gaming audience. Latin America is also identified as a key region for growth, and is projected to have over 130 million esports and games streaming viewers by 2025.

In spite of the increases, Juniper Research does warn that growth could be stifled if stakeholders fail to invest in other revenue streams. It also calls for the creation of more local, tailored content.

“Successful streaming platforms will be those that can cater for the differences in geographical regions, by including locally popular streamers and games titles into esports events,” said Saidat Giwa-Osagie, the report’s co-author.

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