According to analytics firm Newzoo, the global esports market will generate revenues of $1.3 billion in 2020. The global esports audience will be 495 million. Further, that audience of 495 million will be made of up of 272 million occasional viewers and 223 million esports enthusiasts. The report will be released this month, but thankfully Newzoo gave us the OK to publish the above figures. We’ve previewed the full report and will update this post when it goes live.
Update: Newzoo has released its report. Key findings below.
- Mobile esports generated 50 million live viewership hours from September 2019 to November 2019—ten times more than seen in the same period in 2018.
- PC games remain the highest-grossing and most-watched esports, but mobile esports is gaining popularity and will expand throughout Brazil, India, the Middle East & Africa and Southeast Asia.
- Direct-to-consumer products have become a big value for publishers and those making the decisions on how to market esports. Products like OTT (over-the-top) viewership offerings, in-game cosmetics, behind-the-scene tours with players and post-match podcasts all help business.
- Hosting esports tournaments will become an even bigger deal in 2020, which also helps with tourism, reports Newzoo. “Not only would this bring more tourism, but it could also attract more young, highly skilled talent.” Newzoo references a report from Riot Games, which found that the League of Legends LEC Finals contributed more than $2.6 million to Rotterdam’s economy. Keep in mind this tournament lasted only two days.
- As Ben Feferman mentions below, franchising is an attractive model in this industry. “If any ecosystem lacks franchising, there is a constant risk to team and investors, with many seeing regulation as a death sentence,” Newzoo says. “Leagues benefit from a consistent roster of partners giving way to closer relationships, while entry fees help organizers capitalize the league its initial ramp-up operations.”
“Esports viewership will soon eclipse NFL football and I believe within a decade it will be bigger than soccer,” says Ben Feferman, CEO and co-founder of Amuka Esports.
A game hobbyist since he was teeny, and a media entrepreneur for the majority of his career before entering the finance world, Feferman saw the rising esports market and decided to go all-in. He started Amuka Esports, which is creating local esports hubs in different cities across North America. The company is based out of Toronto.
“Each hub that we build consists of an esports venue, a tournament organizer, a content team and an incubator,” Feferman says. “We are just finishing our flagship [hub] in Toronto and then plan to move to U.S. markets including Detroit, Atlanta, Austin and Dallas.”
(Note: Amuka’s Toronto hub is a place to play, compete, work, create and stream. They’ve secured nearly CAD$1 million in funding.)
Feferman, who also serves as an esports analyst, says to keep an eye on game publishers because “they will always reign supreme in this industry” as well as watch for growth in the “casual gamer market” in 2020. Think about local venues, tournaments and merchandise; it’s a direct-to-consumer approach. And those eminent game publishers he’s referring to are Tencent, Activision-Blizzard, Epic Games, Electronic Arts and Valve, all of which are likely to continue a stronghold in 2020 as well as in the years to come. The publishers controlling the tier-1 and tier-2 games in North America are Activision-Blizzard, Riot Games, Valve, Epic Games, Ubisoft, EA and Take 2.
We exchanged more thoughts around esports, and thankfully Feferman agreed to play a little word association game too. All that below.
*Figures mentioned below are in U.S. dollars.
A look at esports
“Canada is on track to be an esports titan. Like with many Scandinavian countries, we have lightning fast internet and don’t leave our homes for six months a year. That’s a prime environment for esports,” explains Feferman.
(If you want a refresh on North America’s esports world, read our overview here.)
In terms of earnings, Canada’s Vancouver Titans placed 99th overall (out of 500), raking in $950,000 for four tournaments played, according to esportsearnings.com, a collaborative source for these tally metrics that is often cited and generally up-to-date. As per the source, The Toronto Defiant has entered three tournaments and earned $54,400, placing them in the 462nd position. There is still ways to go, but there is certainly promise.
While Vancouver and Toronto teams have played under 10 tournaments, combined, Team Liquid has reportedly played 1,645 tournaments (the most of any team) and brought in over $34.4 million, according to the latest summary. OG comes in second with $33. 4 million for 71 tournaments played. Evil Geniuses ran third with $23.5 million, having played 815 tournaments.
The remaining teams’ earnings range from just over $14 million down to approximately $41,000 for the 500th placed team.
Canada’s top-ranked player is Artour Babaev (Arteezy) who’s 23rd in world standings and to date has earned over $2.2 million, while Canada’s Kurtis Ling (Aui_2000) ranks 28th in the world has made over $1.9 million. Arteezy is part of the Evil Geniuses team, while Aui_2000 is now part of Fighting PandaS, which formed in 2019. Previously he was part of Evil Geniuses.
Three American players (Bugha, UNiVeRsE, ppd) have each made around $3 million in total prize money, placing 12th, 13th and 14th, respectively, in overall earnings standings. But, this is no match for top-earning players like Denmark’s Johan Sundstein (NOtail) who has made over $6.8 million and Finland’s Jesse Vanikka (JerAx) who holds over $6. 4 million in career profit. The highest playing game is Dota 2, which all of the above compete in except Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf who challenges in Fortnite.
Johan “NOtail” Sundstein, the number one ranked player in the world, has been playing since 2010. In 2019, he earned over $3.1 million, making over a million more in 2019 than he did in 2018, and the 26-year-old has reportedly played in 109 tournaments.
Back to Canada, 27-year-old Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling is the number two man in the country. In 2019, he earned $12, 800, basically double what he made the year before having earned around $6,000. Artour “Arteezy” Babev remains the country’s top seated star. The 23-year-old allegedly made over $352, 000 in 2019, however, 2018 was Arteezy’s best year as he made over $652, 000, according to findings.
These numbers highlight that this is an industry that fluctuates depending on how many tournaments a player enters or is capable of entering, and the skill set to which they play, consistently. Just like any sport, there is rank and each year it’s different—that’s the beauty of it.
Many think esports players are quite young, however, like Feferman suggests, this is competitive gaming for all ages.
“Since about 2016, I knew this was going to be the future. There are so many talks about gamers being the young demographic that they are, which is true, but I can tell you as someone in their mid-30s with kids, spending a Saturday night playing CSGO [Counter Strike: Global Offensive] or some retro games with friends has been the most fun thing to do,” he says.
Video games are entertainment and these can be played leisurely. Esports is competitive, be it a one-time tournament, beer league or pro-level event.
“If after a long day, I just want to kick back, have a beer and play some Call of Duty, that’s entertainment and I’m not always looking for competition,” says Feferman. “But sometimes I’ll want to go to an event and challenge myself and compete, and that’s esports.”
We curiously asked him if he thinks more professional esports athletes come from a traditional sporting background or more of a video game background, or both.
He responded: “In terms of actual skills and abilities they are completely different. There are some pro athletes like Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman [both of the Toronto Maple Leafs] who are decent Fortnite players, but not to the point they could play professionally.”
Racing games are a bit different, however.
“Racing games are actually the only esports where competency in the game does translate to real-world success on a track and vice versa,” notes Feferman.
Previously, analysts predicted that esports revenue in 2019 would come in at a little over $1 billion, which is “a very small slice of the $150 billion video game industry,” notes Feferman.
Feferman says we should be paying attention to viewership and how the console battle will play out in 2020.
“Yes, it will be Xbox versus Playstation, but Facebook has Oculus. Google has Stadia and Nintendo, Atari, and others will still be competing. Apple will be more aggressive with mobile games, especially with the launch of Apple Arcade,” he adds.
As for the teams and franchises to remember this year?
“We will see the beginning of homestands for Overwatch and Call of Duty. There’s a lot of pressure riding on the success of these homestands to justify the hefty price tag team owners had to pay for a franchise,” says Feferman.
If the above does well, though, and people watch and pay to watch, “it will set the bar for other games to move into the franchise model,” he adds.
“For esports, I am most excited to watch streamers. Their influence in the industry makes them virtual deities and I think they will only continue to dominate audience attention. People like Dr. Disrespect, Tim the Tatman, and also the ones that left Twitch, like Courage, Ninja and Shroud,” he says.
As for 2020? We’re watching how players are being represented and compensated. And it seems there is a lot of messiness when it comes to proper security and success with players. The contracts negotiated with players need to be comprehensive and fair, and as Feferman argues, “follow suit with Blizzard, making standardized contracts with a base salary” the norm.
We’re also excited to see more partnerships like that seen with Louis Vuitton and Riot Games, for example, where a bespoke Louis Vuitton trophy case was unveiled during Worlds 2019. The case was made to hold the Summoner’s Cup, a.k.a. the most coveted prize in esports.
Also, esports will have its very own category at the upcoming Emmys. The “Outstanding Esports Coverage” category will give praise to those making a name in live coverage and casting.
And we’ll be following this too, which will see ESTV become the official broadcast partner of NFL Alumni. “The deal will include co-marketing opportunities for the newly-established partners and will see them co-host an esports event at the Super Bowl,” reports Esports Insider.
Watch for more beverage branding to make its way into the industry. And expect to see more celebrities placing investments in esports. Last year, both The Weeknd and Will Smith made investments into the industry, joining the likes of Drake who invested in the Los Angeles-based esports company 100 Thieves back in 2018. The Weeknd invested in Toronto-based OverActive Media who owns the Toronto Defiant team. OAM is one of the few organizations that has players in both the Overwatch League and League of Legends, too. Will Smith invested in the esports organization Gen.G.
Lastly, here’s what to know about each game that matters, according to Feferman:
You’ll love DOTA 2 if you have a lot of time on your hands.
You’ll love League of Legends if you have a short temper.
You’ll love Fortnite if you’re born in the last decade.
You’ll love Overwatch if…no one likes Overwatch.
You’ll love Call of Duty if you’re a wealthy suburbanite.
You’ll love Counter Strike: Global Offensive if you like getting yelled at by 30-year-olds.
Update: Amuka Esports has now launched a dedicated 10-week incubator called Level Six.
Featured photo: Team Liquid