The Burgeoning World Of Esports Viewership

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The meteoric rise of esports from a niche activity to a pillar of modern entertainment is nothing short of remarkable. While competitive gaming traces its roots back to the 1970s and video game tournaments of old, the scene has expanded beyond all expectations in recent years into a titan of an industry.

Let’s examine the scope of this growth and which games, tournaments and platforms are leading the charge into the future of competitive gaming entertainment.


●   Esports gained over 100 million viewers from 2018 to 2021, now reaching over 465 million global viewers

●   Europe has over 92 million viewers currently. Men watch more frequently, while women spend more on merchandise

●   Viewership skews young, with ages 21-25 making up the largest share of enthusiasts at 36%

●   58% of fans globally are purchasing esports merchandise, led by Spain at 62%

●   The 2021 Free Fire World Series Singapore holds the peak viewership record at 5.41 million

●   COVID-19 caused massive viewership spikes in 2020 and 2021, especially in Spain (70% increase)

●   In the US, 20% are unaware of esports, while 7% identify as avid fans

●   Mobile gaming is poised to expand further into esports with 45% market share

Expanding from Niche to Mainstream

The early days of competitive gaming in the 1970s and 1980s cemented the foundation. But recent growth has exceeded all expectations. The scene counted just 25.7 million US viewers in 2018. Yet after the pandemic, surging market share and the Launch of new games and platforms, that figure sits at over 29 million for 2022 in the US alone.

Globally, the rapid expansion is even more pronounced.

The Burgeoning World Of Esports Viewership

Esports Viewership Over the Years (Millions)


Esports Fans

Casual Watchers










From 2018’s modest global viewership of 25.7 million, the esports scene has gained over 100 million viewers in just three years. The bulk tuned in during 2020 and 2021, clinging to competitive gaming as a digital pastime during COVID-19 lockdowns. By 2021, the total audience swelled to 465 million worldwide.

The trend shows no signs of slowing even as parts of the world return to normality post-pandemic. The unique fusion of gaming entertainment with interactive live streaming looks poised to hook even more casual viewers going forward.

Europe’s Growing Appetite for Esports

Europe is increasingly indulging its passion for elite gaming competitions. Viewership across the pond grew by 7.4% In 2020 to 92 million total, or about one quarter of total global esports viewers.

Of these, a dedicated base of 33 million European fans tune into tournaments at least once per month. The remaining 59 million are casual viewers periodically streaming competitive events.

European Esports Viewership (Millions)









In examining audience demographics, young adult ages 21-25 represent the largest portion of die-hard European fans at 36%. Views remain strong across ages 18-40, while older groups trail off significantly in their viewership levels by comparison.

There is still room for growth in the female viewership, although merchandise spending is encouraging. While 38% of male viewers tune in regularly, just 27% of women watch esports frequently. However, the women who do watch tend to spend more freely on team merchandise, skins and related items. 48% of female viewers were buyers in 2019 versus just 46% of male viewers.

The Burgeoning World Of Esports Viewership

As Europe’s appetite for gaming continues to surge in the 2020s, expect the Continental esports scene to drive higher revenues from merchandise, advertising and platform partnerships.

Record-Setting Tournaments

Now let’s examine some of the landmark viewership figures around elite Esports tournaments held in recent years.

The 2021 Free Fire World Series Singapore holds the current peak viewership record with 5.41 million tuned in concurrently at its peak. In comparison, the average 2021 viewership for a major US sports event like the World Series or NBA Finals draws only around 9-14 million viewers in total.

Here are some other recent tournaments with standout viewership:

2021 Esports Viewership Peaks (Millions)


Peak Viewers

Free Fire World Series 2021


League of Legends 2021 World Championship


PUBG Mobile Global Championship 2020


M3 World Championship 2021


Asia continues to drive forceful growth as mobile gaming gains traction. The 2021 Free Fire series based on the mobile battle royale game drew over double the audience of the massively popular League of Legends championship.

As tournament viewership records continue to get broken annually, expect accelerated growth in the years ahead as hype builds.

COVID-19 Reshapes Viewing Landscape

The onset of COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020 ushered in sweeping changes in entertainment consumption trends. Stuck inside and isolated, consumers turned to streaming platforms for engagement and interactive experiences.

For the esports industry the timing was fortuitous. Viewership spiked dramatically in 2020 and 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels as tournament streaming surged in popularity.

The Burgeoning World Of Esports Viewership

Spain witnessed the most pronounced shift towards esports viewership during COVID lockdowns based on research, with a towering 70% of fans watching more tournaments than usual.

Increased Esports Viewing During Lockdowns


% Increase









Other European nations saw viewership jumps from 50-60% amidst stay-at-home orders.

Encouragingly for the gaming scene, new pandemic-era fans indicate plans to continue their viewership even after lockdowns ended. 62% of Spanish viewers stated they would maintain their spike in esports streaming.

Esports Goes Mobile

The gradual mainstream adoption of gaming on mobile phones represents a pivotal new frontier for tournaments and streamer viewership alike. Already in 2022 mobile gaming comprises 45% of total gaming revenue—a share on track to expand further.

Free game downloads fuel participation from casual audiences, amplified by the ubiquitous nature of smartphones globally. Anyone can download and battle for supremacy in popular mobile titles like Honor of Kings and Candy Crush Saga.

As these mobile empires move more assertively into hosting branded esports leagues and tournaments, the increase in viewership opportunities is immense. The early success of mass mobile tournaments like the 2021 Free Fire World Series suggests the category will supplement computer/console esports nicely.

Asia remains at the forefront of mobile gaming adoption generally. But North America in particular appears primed for massive mobile esports growth pending 5G expansion.

Maturing US Market Still in Early Innings

Compared to Asian powerhouses like China and South Korea, the United States still classifies as an emerging territory awaiting full maturation. This presents exciting expansion opportunities as competitive gaming cements itself in the American culture.

The Burgeoning World Of Esports Viewership

In 2021, approximately 47% of American gaming content viewership comprised esports. Yet one in every five US adults remains entirely unaware of competitive gaming entertainment. Just 7% call themselves avid fans so far.

US Esports Viewership Growth


Viewers (Millions)

% Change YOY













Gradual viewer increases in recent years still signal an industry in its early stages stateside. But with celebrity influencers like Michael Jordan buying into elite teams, expect US esports viewership to accelerate rapidly in penetrating the mainstream sports and gaming fan psyche over the next half-decade.

As the streaming and gaming landscape advances globally, the exciting world of esports viewership appears on the cusp of even greater heights just over the horizon. Strap in and enjoy the rise to dominance!

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