November 25, 2019

Not all gamers are esports fans, but it’s worth paying attention to this particular segment of gaming fandom. Here are just a few reasons why:

2019 was a milestone year for global esports. The global esports economy surpassed $1 billion this past year, a year-on-year growth of +26.7%, notes Newzoo’s 2019 Global Esports Market Report.

The total esports audience is staggering. Comprised of both esports enthusiasts and occasional viewers, the esports audience currently totals 454 million and is projected to grow to 645 million by 2022, according to Newzoo.

Investment in esports is surging. According to the 2019 Esports Survey of esports and traditional sports professionals, nearly half of respondents (47%) expect an increase in esports investment over the next year.

To gain insight into the esports audience, we spoke to esports host and presenter Frankie Ward, who has hosted and covered events such as the ESL Hearthstone Premiership Final, the PC Gaming Show at E3, and the ESL Intel Extreme Masters CS:GO Major Championship. She gave us the inside scoop on everything from how to expand the esports audience to who they are in the first place. 

See It Live

“As esports fans, we’re responsible for educating others and getting them involved. This is our community, and we should be trying to make it bigger. Sometimes, there’s the problem of when you have your favorite band and suddenly everyone else discovers them. Then you’re just like, ‘No, you’re not a real fan. I am.’ So we do need to be more welcoming to new people and show them what esports is all about, which is why I’m always trying to encourage people to go to live events.”

Welcome to the Club

“The esports audience varies from esport to esport. I’ll use Counter-Strike as an example: When you are part of that audience, you’re part of a club. Which was why it was actually quite hard for me to start in it because people didn’t know who I was and would just assume I didn’t know anything because they’d never seen me do anything before. Now, that audience is amazing and so supportive.”

Catch You Online

“When you follow any sports, it’s so easy to feel like you’re connected because you have Reddit to talk about matches or Twitter and Instagram. So you’ll see it’s so easy to get connected to people. There are people who’ve never met each other before in real life until they turn up at a tournament together. And the best way to watch a tournament is in an arena with other people because it is like a normal sporting event. You get so attached to what’s happening and the players.”

Traditional Sports vs. Esports

“The audience wants to emulate their heroes because they’re the same age as them. I was interviewing a 17-year-old player onstage, and he went to the same tournament in 2016 as part of the audience. These kids watch these sports knowing that they could one day be up there playing alongside or playing against their heroes. 

“And I don’t think that’s the same in football. In football, if you don’t start when you’re super young and get spotted early, you’re not going to do it. The best you can do is eat a Pukka Pie and drink some beer on the sidelines. And there is nothing wrong with that. But with esports, there is so much aspiration and hope. You’re so much closer to the players than you are in traditional sports, and that’s really exciting.”