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eSports and eGaming: A Surging Digital Arena

Main image for a BOLD Awards blog on trends in egaming and esports #bebold

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eSports and eGaming have evolved from niche pastimes into global phenomena, captivating millions of fans and offering lucrative opportunities for players and businesses. The average gamer plays more than one hour every day. While the terms eSports and eGaming are often confused, they represent distinct aspects of a booming digital phenomenon. This BOLD Awards blog dives into the thrilling world of competitive eSports and eGaming, exploring their rise, the competitive scene, key teams and players, the business ecosystem surrounding them, and future trends.

The Rise of a Digital Colossus

The first seeds of eSports were sown in game arcades with Space Invaders tournaments and Nintendo’s “NES Championship” in the 1970s to 1990s. StarCraft, released by Blizzard Entertainment in the late 90s, is among the first and most influential PC eSports titles of all time. It established competitive gaming in South Korea where it became almost a national pastime.

Streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube fuelled explosive growth in the 2000s. Games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends dominated the scene, drawing millions of viewers.

In the 2010s, eSports exploded with major leagues, sold-out stadiums, and multi-million dollar sponsorships. Teams like FaZe Clan and OG eSports became household names, and popular titles like Fortnite and Dota 2 transcended the gaming niche.

The Competitive Landscape and Key Players

Game developer companies like Blizzard Entertainment, Riot Games, and Epic Games create the competitive platforms and fuel the ecosystem, while eSports encompasses a diverse range of genres, from first-person shooters (FPS) like Valorant to real-time strategy (RTS) games like StarCraft II.

Regional and global leagues like the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) and Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) establish the competitive hierarchy, and teams like G2 Esports and Cloud9 manage players, coaches, and staff, competing in the leagues and tournaments. TSM is a renowned eSports organization with competitive teams in games like League of Legends, Valorant, and Super Smash Bros. Their players are among the best in the world.

Prestigious events like The International (Dota 2) and the League of Legends World Championship offer life-changing prize pools and immense prestige. Dota 2’s annual tournament, The International, boasts some of the largest prize pools in eSports, driven by crowdfunding and in-game purchases.

Elite gamers like Faker (League of Legends) and s1mple (CS:GO) have emerged as superstars with dedicated fanbases and lucrative contracts. Tyler “Ninja” Blevins is one of the most famous eSports and streaming personalities. He gained massive popularity through his Fortnite streams and has since transitioned to other gaming content.

On the commercial side, given the time gamers spend absorbed in playing and following the top players, brands like Coca-Cola and Red Bull invest heavily while streaming platforms like Twitch and ESPN broadcast major events.

The Business Ecosystem

Competitive games generate significant revenue through sales and in-game purchases, fuelled by player engagement and esports popularity.

The set-in-space video game Star Citizen has been crowdfunding since 2013 and over 5 million registered players still await a release date.

In 2023, as an example, the space trading and combat simulation game Star Citizen achieved its sixth consecutive year of growth. Fans pledged over $117.5 million through the purchases of packages, subscriptions and extras on the game’s crowdfunding site. New spaceships, weapons, even entire star systems, are added to the game upon successfully reaching a crowdfunding target. Players can thus build a participatory sense of influencing the game’s development, adding to their overall engagement. The game has over 5 million registered players though has not yet been released. Their average pledge through crowdfunding is $126.

eSports team jerseys, player apparel, and game-themed merchandise generate substantial revenue streams.

Major brands targeting youthful audiences are eager to enter the esports sector, sponsoring teams, tournaments, and individual players. Particularly when streaming platforms and TV networks broadcast events and tournaments, further monetizing the industry through their own hefty payments for broadcasting rights.

The Future of eSports and eGaming

Both the eGaming and eSports sectors are experiencing explosive growth, and analysts predict this trend to continue in the coming years. With continued innovation, captivating gameplay, and a thriving ecosystem, this digital arena is poised for even greater heights, blurring the lines between virtual and real-world competition.

Key growth factors include:

  •   Mobile gaming is expected to drive further growth, with titles like PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty Mobile attracting massive audiences.
  •   VR and AR have the potential to revolutionize the esports experience, creating immersive spectator and player environments.
  •   Esports could see increased integration and collaboration with traditional sports, creating unique events and fostering broader appeal.

Forecast market value growth

Mobile gaming is the fastest-growing segment, driven by the increasing affordability and accessibility of smartphones. In-app purchases and microtransactions are the primary revenue drivers, as players spend on virtual goods, cosmetics, and other enhancements.

The global eGaming market is expected to reach $268.8 billion by 2025, up from $173.7 billion in 2022, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.1%.  

Global video game market value from 2020 to 2025
(in billion U.S. dollars)

Graph showing forecast value of eGaming market by 2025 in a BOLD Awards blog

Source: Statista

eSports is gaining greater mainstream recognition, with major media outlets covering tournaments and featuring professional gamers. Better access to the internet and to higher quality hardware is also contributing to audience growth. The global viewing audience is forecast to be over 600 million in 2025. This will be made up of more than an estimated 318 million eSports enthusiasts worldwide, plus around 323 million occasional viewers.

As a consequence, the global eSports market is projected to reach $1.86 billion by 2025, up from $1.38 billion in 2022, at a CAGR of 13.5%. (Source: Newzoo)

Challenges and uncertainties

Future growth predictions are not without some concerns.

Regulation and monetization

The eSports industry is still relatively young, and there are ongoing discussions about regulations and how to best monetize the audience.

Sustainability and player well-being

Ensuring the long-term sustainability of the eSports ecosystem and protecting the well-being of players are important considerations.

Competition from traditional sports

eSports may face competition from traditional sports for sponsorships, media attention, and fan engagement.

Conclusion

Overall, the growth prospects for both eGaming and competitive eSports are highly promising. As the industries continue to mature and overcome challenges, they are poised to play an increasingly significant role in the global entertainment landscape.

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Picture of Clive Reffell

Clive Reffell

Clive has worked with Crowdsourcing Week to source, create and publish content since May 2016. With knowledge and experience gained in a 30+ year marketing career based in London, UK, he helps SMEs and startups to run successful crowdfunding projects, and provides support across wider marketing issues.

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