It’s no secret that eSports are here to stay. The industry has become a revenue-making machine—$892 million and rising—so brands from all industries are taking notice. Nielsen has released its 2016 eSports Report, offering insight into the world of eSports enthusiasts; who they are, what they watch and what other things they’re into.
US ESports Fans: Who Are They?
Nielsen reports that 14 percent of all Americans 13 and over are eSports fans—a major increase from eight percent last year. Of these fans, 77 percent are male and 61 percent are millennials. Just as the video game industry has matured in technology and sophistication, its fan base has matured as well, particularly when it comes to competition. While movies like Tron and The Last Starfighter made children dream of becoming the best video game players around, eSports has finally made that dream come true and the world is watching.
This rising fan base is giving whole new meaning to “The Big Game,” as eSports fans are twice as likely to stream traditional sporting events online as non-eSports fans. In fact, 52 percent of these avid gaming fans are just as enthusiastic about the NFL. Nielsen notes a parallel between video game and traditional sports fans, particularly in the realm of combat/fighting sports, racing and US/European soccer. “The eSports audience is at least three times as likely to be an avid fan of these three sports,” Nielsen said in the report, “which is noteworthy given that these parallel three of the most popular genres of sports video games.”
ESports fans devote a lot of time to their passion—roughly four hours per week on related activities or entertainment. Of those that participated in Nielsen’s study, 71 percent stream events online, 40 percent have viewed an event on TV and 23 percent have attended an event in person. Today’s fans are more connected, particularly millennials—a fact that may have nurtured eSports engagement.
“While we do not necessarily see a heavy trend toward consumption of eSports livestreaming on smartphones,” Nicole Pike, director of games at Nielsen told [a]listdaily, “one thing that has increased notably this year versus 2015 is the number of different content types eSports fans are consuming. Whereas last year it was common for many fans to only engage with eSports in a singular way (say, just viewing or just reading news), in 2016 the number of touch points a given fan has with eSports is higher. The ‘anywhere, anytime’ convenience of smartphones is certainly a contributor to this, with the end result being a more engaged, dialed-in fan base.”
For brands that want to reach this demographic, there’s good news—fans of both eSports and traditional sports appreciate direct involvement in their passion. Opinions of brands that participate in traditional sports rose 12 percent in Nielsen’s study, while purchase intent rose seven percent and brand loyalty rose eight percent when brands integrated eSports.
As the popularity of competitive gaming continues to rise, traditional sports players and team owners are investing in the future. While eSports have generally been associated with first-person shooters or MOBAs, mobile developers are getting in on the action, too. Meanwhile, from within the industry, publishers are stepping up their game even further with Nintendo’s hopeful new console and Activision Blizzard’s just-announced Overwatch League.
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