Esports' Wild 2020 Ride Culminates In 69 Percent Growth And A Continuing Rising Trend

from the esports-explosion dept

While we had covered the rise and growth of esports for several years now, readers here will recognize that 2020 became something of an inflection point for the industry. The reasons for this are fairly obvious: the cultural shutdown at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic — one that shuttered nearly all IRL athletic competition — left a vacuum for viewership of competition that esports was almost perfectly situated to gobble up. Viewership exploded, as did the number of esports events. Meanwhile, the trend for IRL sports leagues, teams, and associated industries investing in esports ramped up considerably.

But now 2020 is, thankfully, behind us. And, while the world is still mired in dealing with COVID-19, IRL sports have largely come back. At the onset of 2021, now is the perfect time to ask two questions: what was the actual growth of esports in 2020 and what will it mean when the world begins to go back to a semblance of normalcy over the next year? Well, the numbers are out and they are quite impressive. The following comes from analysts at Engine Media, via its analyst experts at Stream Hatchet.

According to Stream Hatchet’s data, the pandemic’s onset in Q1 2020 caused esports streaming numbers to rise dramatically in Q2. As the year ticked on and live entertainment sports options returned, the trend continued despite the increase in online and on TV entertainment options. Stream Hatchet data showed that activity levels remained high and by year-end had increased 69% over 2019 and 81% over 2018.

There are other key points littered Engine Media’s report. Twitch doubled (!) the amount of hours watched on its platform in 2020 vs. 2019. Female game streamers in particular enjoyed a large rise in viewership. There were 355 million hours of sponsored live streams in 2020, indicating that tons of brands are wising up to the growth of the industry and trying to get in on the game. Also, the inclusion of political content on these game streaming platforms exploded as well, tied to the 2020 election cycle.

“Stream Hatchet’s data has confirmed that video games and esports have taken a huge step in popular culture. When much of the live entertainment world went dark, streaming platforms were able to captivate audiences through remote esports tournaments and exciting live streams,” says Eduard Montserrat, CEO of Stream Hatchet.

“During one of the most closely monitored election cycles in US history, younger generations turned to these platforms, and their respective influencers, to learn about the political discourse informing their decisions at the poll booths. We’re fascinated with the data points and larger media trends that are contained within this report, and are confident that 2021 will yield even more compelling insights.”

Perhaps the most important aspect of the report is that the growth trend in esports streaming didn’t stop once IRL sports came back to television. If that continues, it would indicate that the pandemic didn’t just juice esports’ growth temporarily, but rather simply supercharged a trend that would have happened regardless.

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