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The Future of ESports

Posted: Mon, 19 Mar 2018 10:42

ESports is on the up, but has challenges to overcome in order to reach the mainstream. With news that the CS:GO Major Championships is to be held in London, it provides us with an excellent opportunity to assess the eSports market - who it is appealing to, and the obstacles that need to be overcome to achieve its potential.

At YouGov, we have previously conducted an in-depth study into the industry. Our 'Just a game? Understanding the existing and future UK eSports market' report uncovered that 35% of the public are aware of eSports, equivalent to around 18million people. Of those that are aware, 20% have watched it. This means that 7% of the population have watched it.

Their key demographic, as we would expect, tends to younger (64% of 18-24s have heard of it, against 14% of those 55 and over) and it is more likely to be male (48% of men have heard of the sports, compared to 23% of women).

Crucially, eSports is popular with those that have experienced it. Our research shows that, while 8% of the UK population are interested in watching eSports, six in ten (57%) of those that have previously watched it would be interested in doing so again – indicating there is a core group of viewers that have already built up a certain amount of loyalty to the sport. It is important to note however, that overall awareness in the UK lags behind that in China (77% are aware), Singapore (55%), Germany (44%) and the US (41%).

In terms of what they're watching, our data indicates that FIFA dominates. Of those that have watched eSports, 38% have viewed gamers playing FIFA, narrowly ahead of Call of Duty (36%). Further behind is League of Legends (26%) and Counter-Strike (24%). FIFA also tops the list of games that those who are interested in eSports would watch, with 34% saying that they would, which comes ahead of F1 (28%), Street Fighter (25%) and Call of Duty (23%).

While all the signs point towards an industry on the move, there are certain challenges to be met in order to win back those that have previously decided eSports isn't for them, as well as new viewers.

Our data revealed that the majority of Britons do not believe it deserves the same recognition as traditional, established sports. Only one in ten (10%) of Britons think it constitutes a 'real sport'. However, there is evidence this attitude softens when people are exposed to the industry: 42% of previous viewers say it is a 'real sport'.

Convincing the public of players' athletic prowess remains an obstacle too. Only a paltry 6% of Britons regard eSports players as athletes, and this only rises to one in five (20%) among previous viewers.

Another issue is that in the eyes of the public, there is no one figure or team that they associate with the sport. If we consider another expanding support, UFC, fighters such as Conor McGregor have permeated public consciousness and as a result raised awareness of the sport. Only 17% of those who have watched eSports could name a player, and only 23% could name a team.

Our data shows that just 15% of the UK population say that they see eSports becoming as popular as traditional sports. The challenge then, is for the sport to position itself in a way that it can complement other sports, rather than aiming to replace those that people have grown attached to over time.

Chris Polechonski is Senior Researcher, Digital, Media and Technology for YouGov

Tags: Featured, Sport, Policy

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