Are eSports finally coming to the UK?

Last month, the BBC announced that it would be showing live eSports on BBC Three. The UK is not known for having a strong presence in the eSports world, but will this be a turning point, inspiring a new generation of competitive gamers?

The biggest eSports game, League of Legends had 43 million unique viewers watch its 2016 “World Championship” final. Of the more than $5m in prize money awarded for the tournament, over $3.5m went to South Korean teams, with not a single UK player participating. Does this mean that eSports are only relevant to the APAC market?

Much like traditional sports, various factors influence regional preferences and while APAC countries dominate some games, other regions have their own preferences. The 2016 International DOTA2 tournament awarded almost 35% of its $20m in prizes to non-APAC players while popular eSport games like Counter Strike: Global Offensive are played mainly by Europeans and Americans.

Of the BBC’s choice of games, Street Fighter V, Rocket League and Counter Strike: Global Offensive, only the latter ranks in the top 20 in terms of worldwide prize payouts at $37m (compared to a total $325m paid out in eSports tournaments since the turn of the millennium). ESL One, a CS:GO tournament in Cologne attracted over 27m (unique) online spectators in 2016, almost as many as the roughly 31m owners of the game itself.

Compared to the 80m viewers of an average Premier League football match, that may not seem like much but as traditional sports see viewership numbers declining, eSports are projected to grow more than 40% year on year for the rest of this decade.

While the UK is at the forefront of game development and only a little behind Germany in terms of PC Gaming numbers it is still under represented on the global eSports stage. This may be due to the high cost of living making professional competitive gaming a more difficult prospect than in emerging economies but even expensive Nordic countries like Sweden and Finland seem to be better represented than the UK so perhaps the cause is just lower awareness here in the UK.

It seems the BBC has identified an opportunity to capture the attention of a younger demographic with live events in the UK. Smart sponsors will use this as a way to market gaming products to an audience with growing aspirations of becoming the next eSports star, which will of course require all the best and latest gaming technologies.

To understand what gaming systems and accessories gamers are buying in the UK and across the EMEA region, be sure to ask about CONTEXT’s new PC Gaming service for real data and insight in this exciting area.

by BB

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