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Competition Heats Up as 'Esports' Viewership Explodes

Total prize money has jumped 350% over the past four years

Esports—defined as video game competitions in which players compete in front of live audiences—are gaining ground around the world. According to IHS data released in May 2014, time spent watching esports video nearly doubled in 2013, from 1.3 billion hours worldwide in 2012 to 2.4 billion hours.

IHS projected impressive growth through 2018, when total esports viewing hours were forecast to reach 6.6 billion worldwide. Online video streaming platforms have been and will remain a key driver of this growth. Last year, online esports viewing passed that of TV for the first time, and IHS expected nearly 90% of esports viewing hours to take place online by 2018.

Time spent with esports video wasn’t the only thing that doubled last year—esports viewership did too, hitting 71.5 million people worldwide, according to March 2014 data from Newzoo. And players were reaping the benefits—or feeling the heat—of such growth: Total prize money had increased 350% over the past four years to reach $25 million.

In the US, a newer esports market, 56% of gamers ages 10 to 50 were already aware of such competitions; however, there was much room for audience and participant growth, with just 21% saying they watched or took part in esports.

Newzoo found that older millennials in the US—those ages 21 to 35—were most likely to be active esports enthusiasts, meaning they frequently viewed or participated in the competitions, and accounted for 59% of this group. Men were far more likely to be enthusiasts, with 8.7 million male respondents saying they were, compared with 3.8 million females.

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