Esports host Frankie Ward offers her insight into the esports audience

January 24, 2020

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-over-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. She 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. Previously, she was a producer at Twitch and now streams on the platform as a Twitch partner. But her talents don’t stop there: In her spare time, Frankie streams on her Twitch channel and produces and presents the interview podcast My Life in Pixels.

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Here are highlights from the conversation, edited for clarity.

Esports are more welcoming than you’d think

“As esports fans, we’re kind of responsible for educating others and getting them involved. We should be trying to make our community bigger. There is a ring-fencing aspect to it. Sometimes it’s a bit like when you have your favorite band and suddenly everyone else discovers them, and you’re just like, ‘No, you’re not a real fan. I am.’ There is that problem, which is why I was terrified of starting Counter-Strike in the first place. But then I got in, and it became a dream. So we do need to be more welcoming to new people and show them what it’s all about, which is why I’m always trying to encourage people to go to live events.”

Esports spectatorship is different than traditional sports fandom

“The audience wants to emulate their heroes because they’re the same age as them. I was interviewing a 17-year-old onstage, and he went to the same tournament in 2016 and watched in the audience. These kids actually watch these sports knowing that they could one day be up there playing alongside or against their heroes. And I don’t think that’s the same in football. In football, if you don’t start when you’re six years old and get spotted by a talent scout early, you’re not going to do it. So 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.”

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