eSports has been popular in Asia, Korea in particular, for over ten years. Thanks to the uptake of eSports in the West, growth is now accelerating: both in terms of audience and revenues. But will eSports eventually replace traditional sports in terms of sponsorships, advertisements and players?
eSports was born in Korea in the late 1990s and it grew quickly once the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism formed the Korean e-Sports Association (KeSPA) in 2000. That governing body oversees over 25 eSports titles, and the country currently has three dedicated eSports television networks. The success of eSports in Korea spread throughout Asia in the 2000s.
Stephanie Llamas, director of research and consumer insights at SuperData, forecasts that the global eSports market will grow from $748.8 million today to over $1.9 billion by 2018. Llamas says this growth will be driven by the U.S. and Europe, which marks a shift in the global eSports ecosystem.
Currently, Asia is the leading eSports market with over $321 million in revenue, followed by North America at $224 million (although the U.S. accounts for 96% of North American eSports), Europe at $172 million and the rest of the world accounting for $29 million.
The current $748.8 million global eSports economy is overwhelmingly driven by sponsorships and advertising, which generate $578.6 million (78%) of revenues. The new Fantasy eSports and eSports betting industries account for $55.8 million (7%) of revenues, just edging out the $53.8 million (7%) in prize pools. Amateur and microtournaments generate $27.7 million (4%), followed by $17 million (2%) in merchandise and $15.9 million (2%) in ticket sales.
“Companies like Coca-Cola and Red Bull are growing their marketing budgets specifically for eSports in the U.S.,” Llamas says. “While there are still a number of brands that are slow to catch on, those brands and advertisers that would benefit from sponsoring eSports will start to trickle into the market and that will generate money.”