After Decades Spent on the Fringes, eSports Powers-Up for Mainstream Entertainment, According to New PwC Consumer Survey
Competitive Video Gaming Shakes Off Social Stigma and Pushes Boundaries of Sports Entertainment
To better understand the eSports consumer in the fast-growing competitive gaming industry, PwC US released a survey as part of its ongoing Consumer Intelligence Series (CIS) titled, “The Burgeoning Evolution of eSports.” The report, based on a survey of more than 750 respondents and an extensive three-month social listening campaign, examines the overall awareness of eSports, characterizes consumers by gamer and viewer, and outlines the opportunities for companies gravitating towards the competitive gaming scene.
Awareness of eSports is on the Rise
Though growing, overall awareness of eSports among the general population is still low, as a third of PwC’s survey respondents said they did not watch or participate because they were unware of its existence. Unaided, 15% of respondents said they were aware of eSports, and total awareness jumped to 30% once given a definition. eSports is a global phenomenon without borders, and social media has been a major catalyst for its growth, allowing gaming enthusiasts to interact and unite as a community, transforming eSports into what it is today.
Women are Shattering the Gamer Stereotype
It’s important to recognize that today’s “average” gamer is not the stereotypical male teen. The eSports consumer is young, racially diverse, tech-savvy and often female. According to PwC, 22% of women say they’re involved with eSports versus 18% of men. While the difference is relatively small, it indicates an early trend that women may be just as, if not more, engaged with eSports than males. For viewing versus playing, men are playing slightly more than women, and men appear to watch from a competitive lens, while women appear to watch for enjoyment and for the social aspect of the viewing experience.
Gamers Draw Crowds – from Home
Among the gamers, nearly half (42%) are playing at least once per month, spending 17.5 days per year participating in eSports events and 19 days watching them. In-home competitions are most prevalent, with 70% of gamers choosing to play at home only, with only 18% in-person or at a live event. Among the self-identified hardcore gamers, 60% say they’ve played in-person at a live event. For content, gamers overwhelming play first-person shooter games (62%), followed-by fighting games (48%).
Viewers are Just as Vital as the Players
When it comes to eSports, viewers are just as much a part of the overall competitive gaming experience as the players themselves. Among total viewers, PwC’s survey says one in five watch weekly, with the general eSports consumer averaging 19 days of viewing per year. Asian (27 days) and Hispanic (23 days) viewers tend to watch more frequently, with self-identified hardcore gamers watching the most at an average of 32 days a year. As for the device of choice, 57% of respondents who have watched a competition have done so on a laptop or desktop computer. The most favorable genre of game to watch is first-person shooter games at 63%, followed-by multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) at 37%.
Sports are No Longer Just “Stick and Ball”
The gaming community has fought long and hard for legitimacy in the sports world, especially considering it fills arenas and stadia, and has dedicated OTT networks. Agencies, advertisers, live event companies and sporting venues are just some of the businesses aligning with the gaming genre. The appeal to investors surpasses the game itself, relying heavily on the passionate audience who’s watching. In fact, eSports viewership exceeds top traditional sporting events, such as the MLB World Series and NBA Final. The majority of current eSports consumers will either increase or maintain their level of involvement in the coming year, both in viewership (83%) and participation (72%) – further underscoring how eSports is a vibrant and steadily expanding ecosystem.
The Industry is Ripe with Explosive Potential
The increasing popularity of eSports has attracted the attention of companies industry-wide, and they are trying to reach the coveted millennial audience, as 68% of PwC’s respondents who said they’ve watched a competitive game were under the age of 35. As it becomes harder to reach millennials on traditional platforms, such as linear TV, companies are seeing an opportunity with eSports as its viewers tend to be highly engaged. PwC’s report outlines the companies currently in the playing field:
- Brands: Ranging from consumer beverages, auto to finance companies, brands are sponsoring and partnering with players, leagues and teams
- Fantasy: Traditional fantasy sporting companies are allowing consumers to bet on games like any other sport
- Hardware: More companies are creating new gaming equipment specifically designed for eSports
- Linear: Television networks are starting to broadcast competitions to reach new viewers
- Publishers: Gaming companies continue to acquire, partner and create new games
- Talent agencies: Agencies are representing players and leagues as sponsorship dollars skyrocket
- Tech: Tech companies are backing eSports in numerous ways, from product demonstrations to sales
- Mobile: Apps are being created to provide fans with all things eSports – news, stats and live coverage
- Virtual reality: Convergence of eSports and VR is at the center of attention, as venture capitalists see huge growth potential in the space
The eSports consumer represents a vast source of untapped potential for companies to engage with, as long as they remember the inclusive and diverse nature of eSports players and viewers. Revenue opportunities in the eSports industry are abound, proving it’s a market ripe with value, backed by passionate, loyal consumers.