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Could 2023 be eSports’ Biggest Year Yet?

Penny April 3, 2023

It’s no secret that eSports has been quietly threatening to break into the mainstream for some time. But could this be the year that cements the industry as a mainstay of entertainment culture?

Esports 2023

A recent report on the state of play in the eSports industry has suggested that 2023 is set to be a bumper year. Revenues soared to a record $1.38bn in 2022. It’s clear to see that a world fundamentally altered by the early-2020s’ global pandemic is taking new shapes. More and more money is being pumped into online casino gaming as a whole, and that extends to the competitive sphere. It was estimated, on top of the unprecedented revenues, that there was an audience of half a billion tuning into competitions globally. But what, apart from the aforementioned pandemic, is truly driving this and what can we expect to see?

Industries Collide to Great Effect

One of the biggest driving forces behind this stratospheric boom in popularity can likely be attributed to another industry altogether. Gambling, and specifically sports betting, has continued to grow, year after year. Before the advent of competitive online gaming, wagering had been limited to professional sports like football and soccer. With 2018’s overturning of PUSPA in the US helping establish new legal jurisdictions with a potential 300 million population, there hasn’t been a better time for sportsbooks. Now, markets are beginning to open in esports, driven by a desire to add variety to sportsbook offerings amid fierce competition. Nevada and New Jersey both introduced amendments to legislation to account for eSports in some way in 2022. Should these amendments be approved, it’s likely that we’ll see more change in the graphs.

Mobile is the esports platform of choice

Rivalry, an eSports-specialist betting operator saw its Q3 figures for 2022 double based on the previous year. All of this is to say that it’s clear that there is demand for more ways to engage with the industry. It’s this demand that is key, rather than the specific industries with which eSports combines. As has been seen with the proliferation of mobile sportsbooks and online casinos, players are looking to be able to engage with what they enjoy on the go. Interestingly, the stats show that mobile gaming makes up an increasingly dominant section of the industry. We see more and more new mobile focused crypto casinos especially offering esports to players, as seen on sites like Crashino.

In 2022, out of three competitive games with the highest prize funds on offer, two of them were mobile-specific. On top of that, the game with the second-highest peak viewer figures was a mobile title, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang. Considering that recent reports suggest that 80% of gambling is undertaken on a mobile device, it’s clear to see that it doesn’t matter what the industry is. Instead, a primary driver is the penetration of mobile devices into the wider entertainment culture and the ease of access afforded.


Eye-Catching Competitions to Maintain Growth

While it is important to note the ancillary industries that have popped up around, or interacted with, eSports, it’s also key not to lose sight of what it has to offer on its own. Currently, its major draw is its competitions. Every year, eSports tournaments dominate on streaming websites like Twitch and YouTube. The League of Legends World Championship pulled in a massive 5.1 million viewers in 2022. That dwarfed the previous year’s 4 million. With that kind of steady increase, it wouldn’t be too fanciful to imagine there will be at least another million added to the figure for this year’s competition. If that were to be the case, it would be interesting to see if the same was seen across the board. An industry-wide push upwards in terms of viewership would mean a much higher level of sustainability going forwards.

Given that excitement is already building for competitions like Year 3 of Apex Legends Global Series, it’s safe to assume that this isn’t going to be a flash in the pan for the industry. Obviously, this should all be caveated with the fact that as impressive as these numbers are, they still pale in comparison with traditional sporting events. The FIFA World Cup final of 2022 reportedly raked in 1.5 billion viewers. That’s three times the estimated total audience of the eSports industry as a whole in 2022.

However, that doesn’t mean that its growth isn’t impressive. The half-a-billion audience was a 9% year-on-year increase. And the $1.38 billion in revenue? That represented a 21% increase year on year. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that this is still a burgeoning market in its early decades. And with all that, signs point to an impressive, if not status-quo shattering, 2023 and beyond.

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