The worldwide eSports phenomenon has grown to a size few could have predicted 10 or 15 years ago. Just this past summer, the numbers suggested that more people watched a major video gaming tournament than tuned in to America’s NCAA championship basketball game—often viewed as one of the most significant events on the U.S. sports calendar. That meant an astounding 27 million viewers for the eSports event, and in truth that’s not even the biggest number we’ve seen in recent years for this type of tournament.
And naturally, with so many people tuning in to watch video game competitions, a betting market has already emerged. Competitive sports have always drawn crowds of spectators eager to get in on the action by betting on outcomes, and it’s become apparent that the eSports market is no different. Just earlier this month it was discussed here that many bookmakers have already added eSports to their existing markets in order to accommodate this growing spectator interest. But can betting on video game performance really work similarly to existing sports betting?
It’s essentially an entirely new market. The closest comparison outside of ordinary eSports is probably the Poker in Play app, a mobile accompaniment to this site’s online platform. The app involves ordinary multiplayer poker games, but instead of betting on your own hand, you actually get a peek at every player’s hand, and bet on the one likeliest to come out on top. It’s a little different from the concept of spectator betting on eSports, but it’s one of the only existing examples of players putting money on the outcome of a competitive game—rather than on themselves to win said competitive game.
The success of this style of betting would seem to bode well for eSports betting, given the continued success of casino sites among gigantic communities of players. And indeed some of the early projections for the potential success of the emerging eSports gambling market have been lucrative. This report suggested that the market is already worth about $250 million worldwide, and that it could be worth $23 billion in another five years.
That said however, this argument from earlier this month was far more conservative. It appears that some of the projections for eSports gambling have already fallen short, and certain updated estimates now see a market value of just $1.9 billion by 2018. The explanation appears to be that the bullish projections cited previously were a result of the explosive growth in viewership, rather than gambling activity, and that the betting market will take a little bit more time to catch up to the spectator numbers.
For now, there’s truly no way to get a clear picture of what the exact size of the eSports betting market will be in another year’s time, or in five more years. But it’s safe to say it’s going to be big.