The e-sports industry is currently worth $1.1bn (£847.2m) in 2020, and is estimated to be worth $1.8bn by 2022, according to new research by Currys PC World.
Sponsors made up $456m of the overall $1.1bn in e-sports revenues over the last year, with some of the most high-profile sponsorships including Red Bull, BMW (BMW.DE), basketball player Michael Jordan, and rapper Drake.
Separate research found that brand investment in advertising and sponsorship in e-sports is set to rise 9.9% worldwide to $844m (£657m) in 2020 and is forecast to top $1bn in 2022, according to international marketing intelligence service WARC.
Over the last five years, e-sports revenue has tripled from $325m to $1.1bn and audience size has quadrupled from 120 million to 495 million, Currys PC World found.
E-sports is a form of sport competition using video games, often taking the form of organised, multiplayer video game competitions, particularly between professional players, individually or as teams.
While COVID-19 forced many live e-sports events to cancel, some went ahead in a virtual format, with streaming sites such as Twitch and YouTube seeing a 20% increase in the number of hours streamed during lockdown.
With tournaments offering huge financial prizes, top e-sports players have the potential to win big. The top competing country is the US with American players winning $41.3m in 2019. They are followed by China, which took home $18.5m in winnings last year, and South Korea ($16.5m).
The top competitive e-sports game in 2020 is multiplayer game Dota 2, offering an an overall prize pool of $223.3m.
The top-ranking e-sports team is Netherlands-based Team Liquid which won 1,706 tournaments and $34.9m in prize money as a team this year.
The research has highlighted a lack of diversity in the e-sports industry — there are no women in the top 100 e-sports players, despite growing numbers of women taking up gaming.
“Women are still hugely underrepresented in professional gaming and e-sports, but that’s hardly surprising given that it’s taken time for women to become more visible in the wider industry,” said Aoife Wilson, head of video at Eurogamer.
“The answer isn’t simply to hire a lot of women in junior roles and claim the problem is fixed — there needs to be women working in every facet, every sector of the industry. It’s only then that younger generations of women will look at professional gaming and esports as a viable, safe, and welcoming place for them to work and forge a career.”
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