UK Esports Market Overview
As is the case in the rest of the developed world, esports has been steadily gaining ground in the United Kingdom. Brits are no slouches when it comes to gaming and online connectivity, and the market is substantial with its annual yearly growth rate of 8.5%.
Newzoo predicts that in 2017, the overall UK gaming market will reach $4.2 billion of total revenue, excluding. About 900 million of that figure pertains to smartphone revenue, while 2.2 billion is from consoles. The UK is the world’s sixth largest gaming market.
The current global esports market is worth just shy of $950 million or £695m (estimates range from $900m to $1.1bn). Western Europe generates about 8 to 10 percent of that figure – about $95 million, with strong growth potential. It is the second largest region in terms of esports revenue. Growth in the UK is stable and follows the international trends, however, investment and infrastructure is lagging behind other countries like Germany, Sweden or Korea.
The average esports spectator spends much less per year on esports than viewers of conventional sports to on theirs (about $4 compared with over $50 for the average sports fan) due to lower spending on merchandise, but there is strong growth potential, as the esports crowd is younger, well-educated and has a lot of discretionary income to spend. About 50 percent of esports enthusiasts are high-income earners.
Note that esports betting is not included in this figure, and is likely huge. British bookmakers still represent the most prominent and popular avenues for esports betting, which generates lots of revenue for them. Just to illustrate the scope of growth, Pinnacle took its five millionth esports bet in November 2015, and it expects to take the ten millionth bet January 2018.
The total esports audience in the UK is 6.5 million, 3.1 million of which are classified as esports enthusiasts (people who watch esports multiple times per month). Thus, about 11 percent of total UK population “dabbles” in esports, just shy of the Western European average, which is 12 per cent. It appears that those classified as “enthusiasts” did receive a fitting moniker, as a third of those watch esports content thrice a week or more often. Curiously, the average esports spectator is older than the average gamer.
The number of gamers is astonishingly high. The UK numbers 37 million gamers, 3 million of which play esports games. Most of the gamers are male (almost 70 percent) and young adults (21 – 35). The relative dearth of females is very common in esports and the UK is unfortunately not an outlier here.
The huge benefit for the esports market is that the customers are very loyal. Those who grow older with esports do not abandon them altogether, and could introduce younger people (such as their children) into the world of esports as well. Conversely, it isn’t uncommon for older people to pick up gaming after seeing their children play. The most popular game for spectators in the UK is Counter-Strike: GlobalOffensive. In Germany, for example, it’s League of Legends.
Various UK teams have made a name for themselves in the last few years, like Team CoolerMaster, Choke Gaming and Team Dignitas. There is still room for more teams; however this is hampered because of insufficient sponsor funding. Some progress is visible. The UK recently got its own dedicated esports venue – the Gfinity Esports Arena in Fulham, London, with a capacity of 600 seats.
The expert panel at the Sport Industry Breakfast Club, a sports industry networking event, has pointed out that brands have been slow to recognise the potential that esports has, and consequentially the tournaments are not as well promoted nor funded. That is generally true. Most UK viewers watch the big world tournaments, while the local, grassroots tournaments rarely exceed £20 thousand in overall prize pool value.
The UK esports market is developing rapidly. The awareness of brands and companies that esports is something worth investing in has increased, and so has the prize money. This will only bolster the viewership figures and create a healthy esports economy in the next couple of years.