It is becoming increasingly clear that fans enjoy watching eSports as much as they enjoy traditional sports. eSports has taken off in a big way, with companies like Activision Blizzard expecting its audience to grow to 300 million viewers by 2017.

Research conducted by Electronic Entertainment Design and Research (EEDAR) in July 2015 adds some additional insights on eSports viewers. The report, which analyzes viewership of multiplayer battle arena (MOBA) games like League of Legends, shooter games like Call of Duty, and fighting games like Street Fighter, found that the majority viewers (47 percent) spend around 1-4 hours a week watching eSports. Meanwhile, 20 percent spend less than an hour watching, which is roughly the same as those who watch 5-9 hours a month (19 percent).

Another big takeaway is how most viewers primarily watch to see highly skilled players at work. This is followed closely by how viewers are looking for ways to improve their own game. The least popular reasons for watching eSports include supporting a specific team or player.

[a]listdaily speaks to Patrick Walker, Vice President of Insights and Analytics at EEDAR, to discuss what a typical viewer might be like, and how to tap into eSports branding.


How would you describe the typical eSports viewer

The typical eSports viewer is a young adult male who is very passionate about the game they are viewing (and video games in general). However, it is important to remember that, as with any large population, there are many viewers who fall outside the typical demographic. There are also a large number of female and older eSports viewers. The common thread across these viewers is that they are very passionate about the game they are viewing and likely are hardcore players as well. Importantly for advertisers, eSports viewers are a high spending demographic with broad interests, but critically, are hard to reach through traditional advertising channels. eSports viewers are less likely to watch live traditional sports and regular broadcast cable than other people their age.

How engaged are eSports viewers relative to other mediums

eSports viewing engagement is not significantly different from other mediums when viewed through the lens of viewing time per week. The thing that differentiates eSports viewers from viewers in many other mediums is the broad range of engagement touchpoints. eSports is similar to traditional sports in that people can engage with the sport (i.e. game) as a professional, amateur, fantasy player, viewer, funder, etc.

However, because the sports are actually owned IP by the publishers, the full range of experiences are more tightly integrated through the eSports supply chain. So, for example, a player of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive can play in their own amateur league during the week, make in-game purchases that fund a major tournament, place a bet on a fantasy with in-game currency, and then view the tournament with the chance of getting in-game rewards for . This is a 360 degree level of engagement with incentivized participation at each level that is not seen in other mediums, including traditional sports.

How big is the eSports audience right now, and do you think it can grow beyond the core gaming community

More than 100 million people worldwide will view an eSport in 2015, so the global audience is already quite large. eSports and highly engaged (i.e. core) gaming are heavily correlated. A certain level of game knowledge is required to fully enjoy the strategy and teamwork on display when watching high-level players. The natural path for players to develop this game knowledge is to play the game as an amateur, especially because many of these games are Free-to-Play. eSports and core gaming will be heavily tied together for the near future, as eSports will have to become much more mainstream before new viewers are learning game mechanics through the viewing experience rather than through gameplay. However, the idea of “core” should be thought of as a spectrum rather than a black and white term, and there is no doubt that eSports is growing rapidly by broadening the appeal to game players of all skill levels.

Activision Blizzard’s Mike Sepso stated that eSports viewers “spend twice as much on peripherals, and 30 percent more on hardware and software than players that don’t watch.” For those viewers who are engaged gamers, to what can we attribute the influence of these purchases

It is possible that Mike Sepso is referencing a May study by EEDAR that found exactly this spend difference between viewers and non-viewers. One of the reasons that the eSports viewer is so valuable is that advertisers know that the viewer is likely to be heavily engaged in the game they are viewing. Unsurprisingly, EEDAR research on the peripheral market suggests that competitive players are willing to spend more on high-end peripherals. This is similar to the highly attractive audience who watches golf on television, as sports networks are able to command a premium for advertising because golf viewers are a high-spend audience that purchases a product endemic to the viewing experience.

The effect of non-endemic advertising (such as the Coca-Cola sponsorship of League of Legends) on consumer purchase is a much less obvious relationship. However, research has long shown that exposure to a brand through mediums like television has a powerful influence on purchase habits. The important research finding is that eSports players are young adults that have a broad range of interests and higher spending power than the general public. This makes eSports players a valuable demographic for mainstream advertisers, especially because young adults are getting harder and harder to reach through traditional advertising channels. We believe that advertisers realizing the broad appeal of the eSports gamer will be one of the major drivers in making eSports more mainstream.

What of your findings was most surprising to you

We were surprised at just how deeply eSports viewers are engaged in multiple ways with the product. We expected that eSports viewers play the product more and spend more on the product at a higher rate than non-viewers. But eSports viewers are participating in the product in many new ways. Almost a third of these viewers have bought in-game microtransactions related to eSports and over 20 percent have actually purchased an event ticket and attended a live show.

Lately, there’s been a lot of brand interest in the eSports space. Does the increased interest in eSports line up to you with the expectations that brands have of the eSports viewer or event attendee What should they know

Effective advertising starts with a good understanding of the consumer and a strategy for the fit between the product and the brand. The strategy for an endemic brand will be different than the strategy of a non-endemic one in terms of brand placement and messaging. Advertisers are still figuring out what strategies work best for different types of branding. For example, is it better to sponsor teams, players, or events At this point, consumer research is an important part of the strategy. For example, our research suggests that endemic sponsors are better off with brand placements that are closer to the talent, such as players and teams, while non-endemic sponsors get more bang from maximizing exposure regardless of the placement.