Ahead of the launch of arguably this year’s biggest computer game – FIFA 2018 – new research from YouGov reveals that close to four million Brits have watched esports.
The Just a Game? Understanding the existing and future eSports market in the UK report finds that 7% of British adults (approaching four million people) have watched competitive video gaming – also known as eSports – and six in ten of this group (57%) are keen to do so again. YouGov’s research covers six markets across the world and finds that younger people are the keenest spectators, with a fifth (21%) of 18-24s in Britain having watched, compared to less than 1% of people aged 55+.
The report also points to areas where spectatorship may develop. The research shows that 8% are interested in watching eSports at some point in the future. Again, the youngest age group are most enthusiastic, with 18% of 18-24s being interested, compared with 2% of those aged 55+.
However, multi-national research shows that Britain lags behind other markets when it comes to viewership. In China, over four in ten (45%) Chinese adults who have online access have watched eSports while in the US, one in eight (12%) have and in Germany the figures are one in nine (11%).
While this research shows that eSports is still very much a minority pursuit in this country, there is a sizable chunk of the population that the industry can use as a base from which to grow. A solid proportion of existing spectators are reasonably enthusiastic about watching again and the scale of viewership in China and the US show how it could develop in this country in the coming years if certain barriers can be broken down.
One such barrier to eSports entering the mainstream is the perception that it does not deserve the same recognition as traditional sports. YouGov’s data shows that just 10% of British adults that say it constitutes a ‘real sport’ compared to close to six in ten (59%) who believe it does not (31% don’t know). However, appreciation is higher among those who have watched competitive video gaming, with 42% of previous viewers believe it is a ‘real sport’ (51% say it isn’t).
Current eSports viewers also have a greater appreciation than the general public in other areas. Those who have watched competitive video gaming are three times as likely as the population as a whole to believe eSports players are athletes (20% vs 6%). Additionally, they are around three times as likely to think that eSports will become as popular as traditional sports (44% vs. 15%). Men (55%) are notably more likely than women (43%) to think competitive video gaming will not replace established sports.
Even those that review the sport in positive terms are unlikely to see competitive video gaming replacing traditional pastimes, so the onus is on the eSports to industry to allow it to work alongside familiar favourites. Persuading doubters of the sporting merits is a big hurdle as the majority of people do not currently regard eSports as ‘real sport’. However, our research suggests that when people do get round to watching competitive video gaming, their attitudes soften.
Download this report here