Esports is the world’s fastest-growing sport1. Who would have imagined five years ago that the League of Legends World Championship finals would draw in more viewers than the Super Bowl2?
This blog looks at current esports trends and predicts the future direction of esports based on recent industry developments.
There are various definitions of esports. Newzoo3 describes it as “professional or semi-professional competitive gaming in an organized format (tournament or league) with a specific goal/prize, such as winning a championship title or prize money.”
Dive Deeper: What is Esports? History, Top Teams, Revenues and Risks
How popular is esports and where is it heading? Newzoo’s Global Esports and Live Streaming Market Report 20214 – one of the industry’s most trusted sources for esports statistics, market forecasting and analysis – predicts that:
Rolling Stone magazine believes we are “living in a golden age of esports”5, describing its evolution from an underground movement to mainstream pop culture over the past decade. But where is it heading next? We predict key trends that will shape esports future growth over the next five to 10 years based on recent industry developments.
Esports nowadays has shifted from being primarily for professional players to the college, university, high school and middle school circuits. Across the US, 175 colleges and universities are members of the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE)6 and offer varsity esports programs. In 2013, the High School Esports League7 (HSEL) was founded in 2013 in the US. It is the largest competitive gaming organization for high school students – with over 3,600 partnered schools and 140,000 participating students – and a growing membership base. In 2020, the Middle School Esports League (MSEL)8 was launched for students to develop key life skills such as teamwork and leadership, and learn about the career paths available in esports. We predict that an Elementary School Esports League will soon offer the same opportunities to younger students and that scholastic esports will take off in other countries over the next few years, as it has in the US.
In traditional sports there is an entire infrastructure based on players’ skill levels, with different leagues for different standards. Young players progress through the system until they eventually stop playing or become pro. This trajectory is likely to be the same for esports in future. It will be attractive to parents for several reasons – esports is accessible from home, they don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars going to tournaments, there is less risk of long-term injuries than traditional sports and it offers multiple benefits including teamwork, communication, leadership and confidence. A future esports trend is therefore likely to be parents choosing to enroll their kids in esports instead of traditional sports.
Although almost half of gamers are female9, few women are on the professional esports circuit. There are several initiatives currently in place to tackle the underrepresentation of women in esports:
We predict that over the next few years, female esports players will have better access to equal opportunities, treatment and conditions. Read our blog: The problem with women in esports15.
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