Competitive gaming has grown in popularity over the years, evolving from a casual pastime into a multi-million dollar industry. More than a billion people will be aware of the eSports industry by the end of 2016, according to a report by market research firm Newzoo, up 36% compared to 2015.
According to a consumer research study conducted by Newzoo in 16 countries across North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, the average awareness of eSports among gamers increased from 53.7% in 2015 to 65.7% in 2016.
Although being "aware" of eSports could be as simple as knowing it exists, Newzoo reports a continued increase in what it calls "occasional viewers" and "Esports enthusiasts."
Occasional viewers, defined as "those who watch eSports less than once a month and mostly tune in for a big event or watch along with someone else," combined with eSports enthusiasts will reach 292 million viewers in 2016, Newzoo says. This figure will further balloon to 427 million people by 2019.
"The explosive growth of eSports awareness is not coincidental," Newzoo reports. "It can mainly be attributed to three things: increased involvement of mainstream media and broadcasters, a huge effort by publishers to build their eSports business and explosive growth in leagues and events organised on a global, regional, and particularly local scale."
In an effort to draw younger viewers back to television, Turner Broadcasting now holds its own eSports tournaments. The Electronic Sports League(ESL) is set to launch one of the world's first 24/7 eSports TV channels — eSportsTV — to tap into the $747m (£517m) market. Video game publishers and developers including Microsoft, EA, Activision and Psyonix have also launched their own competitive tournaments to tap into the increasingly popular digital action. Media companies like ESPN, SkySports, Yahoo and BBC have also started to cover the competitive video-gaming scene and its arena-filling tournaments.
Newzoo also notes that eSports is starting to be taken more seriously as an occupation, a valid way to get a worker visa and an area to focus on in college competitions.
"We are barely in the first inning of opportunity for games as organised sport," said Activision Blizzard CEO Robert "Bobby" Kotick during its earnings conference call. "Over the long term we view this as a tremendous opportunity both to celebrate our players and to create a lot of value for our shareholders."