eSports, a billion-dollar industry Part 2: New heroes on the rise

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ESports exploded in 2010. Good players started posting their gaming sessions on global online platforms such as Youtube and Dailymotion, but they lacked the capacity to live stream interact directly with the gaming community. This led to a simple yet remarkable solution that changed the industry forever: Twitch

Called ‘’ before being absorbed by its mother branch, Twitch is the No. 1 destination for gamers wanting to showcase their skills and for people wanting to watch them. The streaming service was branded as the online gathering point for gamers around the world. Its growth has been spectacular: in 2012, the number of minutes spent on Twitch videos was 72 billion. In 2018, the minutes jumped to 560 billion. This exponential expansion can be explained in part by gamers professionalizing their content and achieving more and better sponsorships, plus gaming companies’ choice to live stream their tournaments on Twitch. 

Quick note: in 2014, Amazon recognized the platform’s potential and purchased it for USD 970 million. 

Full stadium effect

The massive success of online tournaments brought the advent of even bigger in-person tournaments held in stadiums for Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG) like the global hit World of Warcraft, and more recently League of Legend or First Person Shooter (FPS) like Overwatch and Fortnite.

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So why give up the online advantage for physical tournaments? To answer that requires following the money from the offline world: 

  • Ad revenue: Intel and Coca-Cola payed multimillion-dollar buy-in fees to feature their brands during the physical tournaments. A better exposure than online? Yes, especially considering the rise of adblockers and the fact that this community is well aware of how to use them.

  • Merchandising: Physical events are an excellent channel to sell merchandise to fans. A League of Legends statue from the ‘Unlocked’ line runs for about USD 70, while a more high-detail statue of an individual champion ranges between USD 150-250. A jersey goes for around USD 60 or more if you personalize it with your own gamer tag. 

  • Ticketing: tickets for the Fortnite World Cup at the Arthur Ashe stadium cost between USD 50-150, and even more with an exclusive VIP package. 

A new world of Superstars

Like traditional sports, some eSport players are garnering superstar status thanks to their impressive performances. While Giersdorf may have made the headlines for his Fortnite World Cup win, he is not the most well-known player in the eSport sphere. One of the first to achieve international acclaim is Daigo Umehara, a Street Fighter Japanese player. His first trip to the US in 1998 went almost unnoticed. However, back again in 2004, his epic win against Justin Wong in the final of EVO proved that he was the ultimate champion in the eSport scene. In the years that followed, Umehara won major world tournaments and wrote several books about his gaming career. The Kindle edition of his first book The Will to Keep Winning became a No.1 best-seller on Amazon Japan for more than a year. More recent legends include: f0rest (Counter-Strike), Fatal1ty (Quake III Arena), Moon (Warcraft III and Sarcraft II), Dendi (Dota 2) and the world famous Faker (League of Legends). 

In today’s world, however, even more important than being the best is having followers. With an astronomical 14.37 million followers on Twitch (twice as many as the second-most-popular gamer), Tyler Blevins, a.k.a. Ninja, is the most famous professional gamer in the world. Having competed in many first-person shooters for more than a decade, his rise to stardom is closely linked to Fortnite’s success. And here comes the money wagon: the 27-year-old player from Chicago earned USD1 million to play Apex Legends on the game’s launch day, reports say. And in 2018, Ninja’s passion for video games earned him USD10 million, with 70 per cent coming from his Twitch or YouTube channel viewers through paid subscriptions or donations, and the rest coming from sponsors. Speaking of Ninja and sponsorship deals, Adidas has announced last week that he will become the first professional gamer signed up by the German brand as a brand ambassador. While this is obviously the top end of the spectrum, it’s important to be aware of the income potential for the industry’s best, brightest and certainly most popular

Stay tuned next week for more about Esports. In our third and final segment, we’ll talk sponsorship opportunities and the future scope of this exciting market.  

Stay Tuned for the Part 3 next week! 

A The Consultancy Group article, written by Alessandro Di Benedetto

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