Data Journalism Story

The Growth of Gaming and E-sports

In the 21st century, technology plays a major part in most of our lives. Often the first and last thing we do each day is look at our phones, and we spend hours of each day staring at screens. Young people in particular will spend large periods of time on social media sites such as Instagram or Tik Tok, or other means of socialising and connecting with their friends. Recently, the gaming industry has seen a massive growth, with video games and consoles providing people a way to connect and play with people across the world.

Over the past number of years, gaming has developed into a business industry, where people can stream live to thousands of viewers through platforms such as Twitch or YouTube Gaming. With the right setup, anyone can stream whatever game they are playing, and those with bigger audiences are often dubbed ‘influencers’. These influencers will often keep on top of what is trending. A quick browse of the Twitch website will show you which games are the most popular right now going by total amount of views. As such, in this modern age of gaming it is not hard for people find their next big obsession.

The next step in all of this is the rise of competitive gaming, or esports. Most video games with an online element also feature a ranked leader board system, or player vs player mode. This means players who achieve a certain rank will be able to compete in bigger competitions with more skilled players, and often there is prize money involved in the larger tournaments. So, when there is money on the line for the best of the best in each game, it’s no wonder lots of young people these days are trying to reach the same level of success their favourite streamer has. But let’s see what we can learn from the stats.

The first key factor to look at in terms of analysing the growth of esports is viewership numbers, how many people are watching esports. According to Newzoo, global esports viewership numbers were around 465 million in 2021. Of this, 235 million, or just over half, were occasional viewers as opposed to esports enthusiasts.

The 2021 viewership figures are an increase of over 6% from 2020, and Newzoos statistics also provide a rough estimate for viewership figures for 2024, estimating an increase of almost 8% to over 577 million. The large increases in 2019 and 2020 are likely due to the result of the covid-19 pandemic, which had a large impact on the esports industry. While some large in-person events had to be cancelled, with people spending more time indoors, streaming platforms such as Twitch saw huge viewership spikes, with people needing to entertain themselves.

As viewership figures lead to an increase in audience and competitors in the esports market, revenue also increases. The majority of this comes from branded sponsorships, making up $641 million dollars in 2021. Revenue also comes from top players signing contracts with esports teams to play for them, further growing players’ reputations.

As the data has shown so far, the natural increase in popularity of gaming and esports, external interest and investment increases, which also serves to further increase funding in general for the sport. As seen in the data above, prize pools of money for specific regions increases.

Although the esports industry has become heavily commercialised, Jamel Donald, 21 year old amateur streamer noted that money was not his key motivation for wanting to start streaming. He said “While, yes, you can make money from streaming and content creation if you are extremely fortunate, this was not my main motivating factor to start streaming specifically.”

“Streaming offers an opportunity to bring some positivity and connection into this world that is exceptionally unique and that is the reason that I began streaming.” Jamel also explained how his interest in streaming grew from watching others on platforms such as YouTube, as he continued “I think that there has been in increase in people playing games because each day there are more ways for people to discover games.”

Jamel also noted that, with so many young people watching streamers now, it can be difficult to filter the content, where some children could be watching a negative streamer. However, Jamel believes that streaming has huge potential to be a positive thing, “Streaming offers an opportunity to bring some positivity and connection into this world that is exceptionally unique and that is the reason that I began streaming.”