The first step in esports betting is having at least a basic understanding of what it is. For most people over the age of 40 it can be a tough concept to get your head around at first. Esports is growing exponentially and is expected to keep growing throughout the next decade. Estimates suggest that the esports industry could be worth $1.65 billion by 2020. Along with the boom in esports has come a boom in esports betting. It’s tough to get an accurate figure on the size of the esports betting industry but virtually every online sportsbook now offers some type of esports wagering. Some sportsbooks have made esports a primary focus and there are even a few that specialize in it.
So what exactly is ‘esports’? The simplest definition is that esports is professional level competitive video gaming. Given the huge popularity of video games its not a surprise that there would be high level competition. Here’s the surprising part—esports is also a spectator sport that is booming in popularity. We’re not talking a few random geeks watching online. Esports fills arenas. The 2017 Intel Extreme Masters World Championship held in Poland attracted a live audience of 173,000 with 46 million unique viewers watching the online live stream. 74 million viewers watched the 2017 League of Legends World Championships online. To put that into context we can look at the list of the most watched TV shows in the US last year—the 74 million figure is more than every one of the shows on the list with the exception of the Super Bowl.
VIDEO GAMES ARE AN ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY JUGGERNAUT
To understand the growth of esports its important to understand the massive size of the video game industry itself. Most people realize that video games are big business but not everyone realizes exactly just how big. In 2017, the US video game industry generated a record $36 billion in revenue which is significantly more than the film and music industries combined. It’s almost as big as the US casino gambling industry which earned $40 billion in revenues last year. Internationally, the video game industry generated $108.4 billion which once again surpasses the global film and music industries. The video game business is still in serious growth mode. The US industry, for example, grew 18% from 2017 to 2016.
Given the size of the market it’s not surprising that video game enthusiasts would enjoy watching high level competition. The majority of the esport viewership do play the same games as the professional competitors but this metric reveals yet another surprising number—42% of viewers don’t play the game they watch at a competitive level. This means that esports is a legitimate professional spectator sport that is demonstrating strong growth independent from the booming world video game market.
MOST ESPORTS FANS ARE LOYAL TO A SINGLE GAME TITLE
It might not be accurate to generalize about the overall popularity of esports as a spectator sport. Another interesting component of its popularity is that the fanbase’s interest is predominately limited to a single gaming title. 70% of esports fans only watch competition in one title such as League of Legends, Hearthstone or Overwatch. The intuitive reaction to the popularity of esports is to assume that a fan would keep up with the overall competitive scene but that isn’t the case.
The ‘title exclusivity’ of esport fans might seem unusual at first but when you think about it the behavior is very typical of professional sports fans. For example, I consider myself a huge hockey fan but my viewership is limited to the National Hockey League (NHL). Not only do I not have a clue about what is going on in international pro leagues like the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) or the SM-Liga which is the top professional hockey league in Finland. In fact, I couldn’t name one team in any world professional league other than the NHL.