Considering that ESPN’s coverage of EVO 2016’s final round on Sunday drew over 200,000 viewers and millions of social media impressions, it’s no surprise that eSports is reaching the mainstream in a big way.
A new SuperData report provided even more proof of this statement, noting that eSports earnings have managed to reach $892 million for 2016 thus far, as more brands and publishers invest in the growing competitive market.
A lot of this revenue comes from ads and sponsorships, but a good portion is also generated from direct revenue, with prize pools for tournaments sponsored by EA and Microsoft reaching well into the millions.
In addition, there’s more investment coming from the regular sports scene as well, according to the report. Many professional soccer teams are calling on FIFA game players to help carry the torch, and some are even taking part in non-sports related games, with Germany’s FC Schalke 04 acquiring a number of League of Legends teams with hopes of expanding their brand.
SuperData also made note of the worldwide eSports audience, and how much it’s grown over the past year, expanding from 188 million to 214 million. That growth will continue, although at a slightly smaller rate. Regardless, it’s set to accumulate over 300 million viewers by 2019—if not sooner.
As far as which games rule the eSports roost, League of Legends continues to be the top dog with 27 million unique viewers tuning in to the 2015 World Championships—that’s higher than the entire audience for the 2014 MLB World Series.
“Riot Games’ hands-on control of the game’s eSports ecosystem means League of Legends eSports production values are top-notch,” the report notes. “Professional League of Legends is relatively easy to follow, thanks to clearly defined pro leagues.”
Valve’s DOTA 2 follows in a close second, and SuperData was quick to report the success of The International, which will have a record-setting $18 million prize fund (thus far) up for grabs when it takes place later this summer.
Games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and other “legacy shooters” also have a place in eSports, though SuperData says that “the market is currently undergoing a transition, much like how MOBAs replaced real-time strategy games as a top eSports genre early this decade.”
But the diversity is likely going to stay this way for a while, with games like Rocket League and Overwatch continuing to show popularity across Twitch and Azubu—thus continuing their growth into the eSports realm. Facebook is also getting more into the game, particularly with its recent deal with Activision Blizzard to feature MLG.tv integration, as well as more Overwatch-related features for the site.
The report concludes that, even with more TV exposure for eSports (like TBS with its eLeague and ESPN’s recent coverage of EVO), many people will stand by Twitch to get their eSports fill.
“Online streaming platforms offer a superior viewing experience by letting viewers easily chat with others and track competitor stats. Additionally, eSports’ culture and core audience originated online, so long-time fans not feel TV is necessary to legitimize eSports.”