Global esports revenue will top $1 billion for the first time in 2021: Newzoo report
The global esports market is set to surpass the billion-dollar mark for the first time in 2021, according to a new report released today from games and esports data company Newzoo.
Esports revenues around the world will surpass $1.08 billion in 2021, a 14.5% increase from $947.1 million in 2020, according to Newzoo’s 2021 Global Esports and Live Streaming Market Report, which for the first time incorporates the ever-growing gaming livestreaming market. Last October, Newzoo forecast that the billion-dollar milestone would be passed in 2020, but revised the number to $950.3 million due to the pandemic limiting attendance at esports events. Newzoo estimates that worldwide esports revenue will exceed $1.6 billion by 2024 with a growth rate of 11.1%.
Newzoo analyzes the professional and semiprofessional competitive gaming space where players enter tournaments or leagues with prizes, but does not include amateur competitions or livestreaming around non-organized gaming. The predictions are based on data from more than 15 million gamers, 4 million apps and 1 billion mobile devices, along with insights from 60,000 esports enthusiasts and viewers from 32 countries.
China is the category leader, bringing in more than a third of worldwide esports revenue, according to the report. The country is projected to reach $360 million in revenue in 2021, 14% higher than $315 million in 2020. North America comes in second with a projected 2021 revenue of $243 million, followed by Western Europe with a projected revenue of $206 million.
The majority of revenue continues to come from brand sponsorships, including deals around sponsoring events, product placement, sponsoring teams and brands paying to use events or teams in marketing. In 2021, sponsorships will account for 59% of revenues, generating $641 million. Newzoo predicts that this number will decrease slightly in coming years as ticket revenues recover and esports leagues and teams diversify digitally. The top brand sectors behind the sponsorships include gaming hardware, furniture manufacturers, energy drinks, computer hardware and telecom providers.
Beyond sponsorships, 2021 revenues will be boosted by media rights ($192.6 million), publisher fees ($126.6 million), merchandise and tickets ($66.6 million), digital ($32.3 million) and streaming ($25.1 million), the report says.
As much as the pandemic has affected in-person events, esports has seen growth from gamers confined to their homes. The number of online esports players has soared over the past year. “League of Legends” was 2020’s most-viewed game on Twitch and YouTube with 448 million hours watched. “The League of Legends World Championship” was the biggest tournament watched at 91.9 million hours, followed by “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” with 223 million hours, “Dota 2” with 176 million hours and “PUBG Mobile” with 106 million hours.
Newzoo predicts that the global livestreaming audience will hit 729 million in 2021, a year-over-year growth of 10%, and is expected to reach 920 million by 2024. China will again have the largest market for livestream gamers in 2021 with an audience of 193 million—a number expected to reach 214 million by 2024.
Due to esports' global growth, livestreams are also diversifying in terms of language. After English, Spanish and Portuguese broadcasts saw the greatest growth in 2020, with Spanish livestreams growing by 369% to 1.4 billion hours and Portuguese livestreams growing by 189% to 1.1 billion hours.
Outside of livestreaming, the esports audience will grow to 474 million in 2021 and is expected to climb to 577 million by 2024, according to the report.
"While 2020 has been a challenging year for the esports market due to the pandemic, the industry has quickly adapted and is poised to grow in 2021 and further expand in 2022,” says Remer Rietkerk, Newzoo’s head of esports. “Streaming has enjoyed a massive boom over the last year, and the industry has accelerated as a result."