The eSport term means professional competition in the gaming industry. Its participants are professional players, often associated in teams. Disciplines in eSports are specific games that allow one or more players to compete. The most popular games are those with a large community and relatively low barriers to entry (both in terms of prices and skills), but difficult to master at a high level. Just like in traditional sports, players in eSports are team members. One team may have players who specialise in different disciplines. The eSports market is an industry in which the income of players and teams comes from winnings in competitions and from sponsors.
The eSports events
Important elements of the eSports market are tournaments during which players compete for cash prizes. The tournaments are organised both in the form of broadcasts that can be watched on the Internet and television, as well as live events where the audience can watch the players’ struggles live. Such events are also an opportunity for sponsors and companies from the gaming industry, which have their promotional stands at them. In Poland, one of the largest eSports industry tournaments is the international Intel Extreme Masters (IEM), the finals of which have been organised in Katowice since 2013. In 2020 and 2021, due to the epidemiological threat, the event was held without the participation of the public.
Due to their specificity, even before 2020, the largest eSport tournaments were broadcast online. Only in 2021, the Free Fire World Series 2021 Singapore at the time of its peak viewership gathered over 5.4 million people in front of the screens. The average number of viewers during the entire event was over 2 million. In this respect, it was the largest tournament in 2021. The 2021 League of Legends World Championships came second with a peak viewership of just over 4 million people. It is also worth noting that these numbers do not include viewers from China, because Chinese platforms do not provide their statistics.
The eSports market in numbers
The value of the global eSports market in 2021 was over USD 1.28 billion, according to Statista. This is an increase compared to 2020, when the value of this market was less than USD 1 billion. In 2025, the value of the eSports market is expected to reach almost USD 3 billion.
In the United States alone, the number of viewers of eSports tournaments has grown from over 21 million in 2019 to 23.9 million in 2020. The Insider Intelligence portal estimates that in 2021 this number has already reached 26.6 million people, and by 2023 it is expected to exceed 30 million. And according to Newzoo, the global eSports audience in 2021 was over 465 million, with an expected increase to nearly 580 million by 2024.
Money in the eSports market
According to Statista, global revenues from eSport in 2020 amounted to USD 947.1 million, while in 2021 they are estimated at over USD 1 billion. The eSports market is expected to generate over USD 1.6 billion in revenue in 2022. The largest shares in these amounts are revenues related to sponsorship and marketing, as well as media rights. In 2021, as much as USD 641 million came from sponsors, a total of over USD 319 million from the sale of media rights and publishing fees. Revenues from products and tickets were next, and in 2021 amounted to USD 66.6 million.
According to esportsearning.com, the most profitable games are Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), and Fortnite. Events pay-outs from these games to date have totalled over USD 278 million for the top Dota 2 players, USD 129 million for CS:GO, and over USD 111 million for Fortnite.
The largest organizations in the eSports market
The leaders in the world of eSports in terms of earnings are:
- Team Liquid (USD 38 million),
- OG (USD 35.6 million),
- Evil Geniuses (USD 25.6 million),
- Team Spirit (USD 19.9 million),
- Virtus.pro (USD 8 million).
The biggest sponsors on the eSports market are:
- Red Bull,
E-sport in the mainstream
The eSports market is a developing industry. This is largely due to the infiltration of the gaming culture into popular culture. Celebrities from the world of music and sports not only take part in the promotion of eSports events and play with popular players on live streaming platforms but also invest in eSports teams. In 2018, Micheal Jordan invested USD 26 million in the aXiomatic Gaming start-up, and rapper Drake became a co-owner of one of the most popular eSports organizations called 100 Thieves. Additionally, many teams sell their branded products such as clothing and accessories, and define themselves as lifestyle organizations, suggesting a wider reach than just eSports. The increasing presence of gaming and eSports in popular culture attracts more viewers and sponsors.
Author: Luiza Rach
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Esports 5 years on: Where is the industry headed in the future?, Jake Nordland, Esports News UK, 17.02.2021.
Esports Ecosystem in 2022: Key industry companies, viewership growth trends, and market revenue stats, Insider Intelligence, 03.01.2021.
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eSports market revenue worldwide from 2019 to 2024, Statista, 06.08.2021.
eSports market size worldwide from 2020 to 2025, Statista, 06.08.2021.
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