Esports Demographics: Mainstream or Cliquey?
Esports has gone a long way since its infancy in the early years of the new millennium. Lots of technological advances have brought about a boom in online services, games, and startup companies. It has reinvented the way we think about and approach technology, entertainment and gaming in general.
From a very negative perception of video games and gamers to a phenomenon where you can play casual games on the go by tapping your smartphone, it is obvious that a lot has changed. Gaming has become mainstream among almost all age groups, races and sexes. Not all groups tend to play the same games, but that is fine. A housewife playing Farmville on her laptop is as much a gamer as a teenager playing Call of Duty on his PS4, broadly speaking, of course.
This warming of the mainstream society towards gaming has also started to spill over to the Esports scene, but the process is gradual and slow compared to the general expansion that has occurred in the last few years. Data is still rather imprecise, but it is of paramount importance for advertisers and other industry players to understand the people participating in Esports, as it can spur investment and funding.
Contrary to once popular worldview that games and gaming is for children and unemployed young men, the fact is – Esports players are a very attractive and lucrative potential market. Esports viewers and players are more well-off than average. Mindshare reports that 43 percent of Esports enthusiasts earn more than $75 thousand per household per year, and about a third rake in more than $90 thousand. This is an indication that a lot of these players are highly educated professionals.
Millennials predominate in the Esports audience. As much as 65 percent of all fans belong to the 18-34 age group. Women are also represented to a surprisingly large degree: 38 percent. This is still well below a healthy level of equality, but is a striking figure taking into account the fact that this has historically been a primarily male subculture.
There are significant male/female splits when it comes to gaming. Dota 2 and CS:GO are primarily male dominated, with a player base consisting of only about a fifth of female players. However, women consist a large (30 percent) number of viewers. Fighting games are more popular among women (such as Street Fighter), with close to one third of players being female.
Even more interestingly, more than a half of the fans aged 25 or more have their own children – so the stereotype of “basement dwellers” playing games simply does not stand, if it ever did. In fact, Esports has become so popular among the millennials that they watch it as much as, or even more than, hockey and baseball. Newzoo reports that slightly more than 20 percent of male millennials aged 21-35 watch Esports – 5 percent more than Esports and about the same as baseball. Esports viewership sharply drops off in older age groups.
Watching Esports is a social experience, with half the viewers reporting that they enjoy watching Esports with their friends and family present, this rate climbs to 58 percent for female viewers (Mindshare data). This is a similar finding to what the research on watching conventional sports broadcasts shows.
The viewers are very engaged – 49 percent report that they spend most of their free time around Esports. The rate increases with the persons’ household income. As much as 60 percent claim they are willing to travel to see their favorite tournaments, games or cheer for their team. The Esports really is very social, with two thirds reporting it helped them make new friends. The rate is even higher among men.
While Esports has gained a lot of ground recently, we are still away from the perfect equality and a more diverse demographics. However, the findings are very motivational both for participants themselves, as well as for marketers and investors. The demographics is rich and well-educated, and they tend to be open to new experiences. Their engagement level is also surprisingly high, which is a boon for advertisers.
And to answer the question from the title – well, it’s neither. Esports is “stuck” in a limbo, between a rock and a hard place, but its constant growth will eventually see it pushed into the mainstream, where it rightfully belongs, hopefully getting rid of the unwarranted stigma and derision it still occasionally encounters.