How can we help?


eSports: The beginning of a new era in gaming?

Video games. A simple yet entertaining diversion or a colossal waste of time? One may be forgiven for missing the rapid emergence of competitive videogaming, also known as eSports. Yes, it is actually a thing, and its popularity is surging. The business world is taking note.

The recent Fortnite World Cup (for those not in the know, Fortnight is an apocalyptic survival videogame), for example, attracted 40mn gamers competing for 150 spots in the finals in which they would compete for $30mn in prize money. The winner, a 16-year-old from Pennsylvania, took home $3mn, with second, third and fourth places earning $1.8mn, $1.2mn and $1.05mn respectively. To give this some context, Wimbledon’s prize pool in 2019 was £38m with the ladies’ and gentlemen’s singles champions taking home £2.35mn each.

Fortnite has some 250mn registered players globally and although it is one of the behemoths of the industry, competitions exist for everything from Street Fighter to League of Legends and StarCraft, amongst many others. Such is the explosive growth of eSports that it  has been considered as a potential addition to the Asian and Olympic Games line-ups, although governing committees have concluded it is premature at this point.

Goldman Sachs estimates that the audience for eSports will grow to 276mn by 2022, up from 167mn in 2018; it is estimated 79% of these viewers are under the age of 35, the coveted millennial and Gen Z demographics. These audiences are already bigger than some established traditional sports leagues such as Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League in North America; an unsurprising fact given more than half of eSports audiences are in the populous Asian markets. Revenue in 2017 was estimated to be $655mn and is expected to grow to $3bn by 2022.

The winner, a 16-year-old from Pennsylvania, took home $3mn.

Given the rapid emergence of eSports and continued expected growth in the medium term, investors are piling in, from Amazon’s acquisition of Twitch, a videogame live streaming platform, for almost $1b in 2014, to an acceleration of venture capital directed at backing an expanding ecosystem including:

  • events and tournaments
  • software tools
  • communications, news, social and media
  • hardware
  • data and analytics
  • teams and leagues
  • fantasy and gambling

It is still early days for the sector and there are questions over the accuracy of available market data. As a medium for advertisers, for example, there are challenges related to brand associations with violent videogames (indeed this is one of the factors being considered by the governing bodies of the Asian and Olympic Games) and measurement of viewing figures which pose complications relative to established measurement techniques and metrics used for traditional mediums like television and radio. Broadly, every aspect of the eSports ecosystem still has an existential question mark over the long term viability of individual videogames and their shelf lives, and which might be the blockbuster videogames of the future; this data simply does not yet exist.

So what is next for eSports? Only time will tell. As the industry matures, winners and losers will emerge across the ecosystem. It is still a relatively niche industry, albeit growing, and it remains to be seen whether eSports will be truly launched into the mainstream, a feat ultimately dependent on attracting a global base of non-gaming fans, as with other successful professional sports leagues around the world.


About this article

This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

About this article

Read, listen and watch our latest insights

  • 22 February 2024
  • Employment

Time to take the heat off menopausal women

On 22 February 2024, the EHRC released guidance and resources for employers designed to help employers understand their legal obligations in relation to supporting workers experiencing menopausal symptoms.

  • 22 February 2024
  • Employment

Talking Employment Law: What to do if you’re at risk of redundancy

In this podcast, Harry Berryman and Rebecca Dowle, members of the employment team, will talk through the steps that need to be taken for a redundancy to be fair and the range of criteria that can be used when determining which employees will be made redundant.

  • 21 February 2024
  • Immigration

FAQs Partner Visa UK

Discover the UK Spouse Visa: eligibility, finances, relationship criteria, and the latest updates in 2024 for a successful application.

  • 19 February 2024
  • Privacy and Data Protection

The role of Data Protection Officers in ensuring compliance

How many of us receive marketing calls for products and services we did not sign up for?

  • 12 February 2024
  • Employment

The World of Work in 2024- What Can HR Expect?

In many senses, 2024 is unlikely to be a year with radical ruptures from those that have gone before it. The significance of 2024 though, is that it is likely to build upon those megatrends impacting the world of work, which have been emerging for some time now and are only likely to strengthen as we move on in time.

  • 09 February 2024
  • Privacy and Data Protection

Are we suffering from cookie fatigue?

An over-indulgence in Easter treats might not be the only cookie fatigue that individuals will suffer this year according to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO).