April 11, 2014
Last year, more than 71 million people worldwide watched other people play computer games, according to a report from games research company SuperData. More than half of those people were in the United States and one in five American gamers either watch or participate in eSports, or organized video game competitions. At the League of Legends Season 3 World Championship last year, 32 million people watched the professional gamers battle it out.
The finals of the competitive tournament are similar to physical sporting events. At the Staples Center in Los Angeles last October, “League of Legends” players competed in front of a sold-out crowd of 18,000 people for the world championship title. Combined with the people who watched the event online, the League of Legends World Championship attracted more viewers than the Major League Baseball World Series or game seven of the NBA Finals.
The people watching eSports are usually gamers themselves, looking to learn new moves and improve their own game, according to SuperData CEO Joost van Dreunen. Viewing sessions average over two hours in length, and video game spectators watch eSports 19 times a month on average.
Over the past several years, eSports have become quite lucrative. In 2013, $25 million in prize money was awarded in computer game tournaments. Other companies make money by broadcasting eSports. According to Quartz, the website Twitch.tv gets 45 million unique visitors who watch a total of 13 billion minutes of gameplay each month. The site even has its own eSports commentators.