Traditional sports such as football, cricket, baseball and basketball have been around for a long time. For this reason, many people who watch sports tune into their favourites whenever they are on. Over the past twenty years, though, esports has emerged as an alternative to traditional sports. It is no longer unusual for people to tune in to watch others play video games in giant arenas and even in the esports Olympics. Video games are no longer a hobby but instead a competitive sport, a massive industry and a lucrative venture for everyone involved.
How Many People Are Watching Esports and Traditional Sports Today?
According to data from Syracuse University, the number of people watching esports in 2016 stood at around 270 million globally. Esports started gaining popularity around this time, with tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands attending each live event organised by esports companies.
That number grew to 365 million in 2017 and swelled to over 500 million in 2021. These numbers are impressive, but they are dwarfed by the number of people who watch the FIFA World Cup, which regularly sees over 1.5 billion people invested in seeing their country or favourite country win the World Cup.
Other traditional sports that come close to these numbers are American Football and baseball. According to the same data from Syracuse University, about 79 million people watch the MLB in the United States, and over 140 million people watch the NFL.
These sports are not popular outside the United States because only about 1-3 million people tune in to watch them outside the country, with many of them only tuning in to watch the Super Bowl.
Another traditional sport that regularly comes up is cricket. The sport is popular in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and South Asia.
Given the population of India, it is not surprising that cricket has over 2.5 billion fans globally. A typical cricket match in India attracts over 100 million watchers, and that number increases when Indian teams play against those from other countries like Pakistan, Australia or England.
Notable traditional sports with significant viewership include:
- Golf – Watched by 450 million people
- Field hockey – Watched by 2 billion people
- Tennis – 1 billion fans
- Table tennis – 850 million fans
- Basketball – 500 million fans, mostly in the United States
Since millions or billions of people watch different traditional sports and esports, we must ask why both are so attractive. Traditional sports are so attractive because they are what many people know and are what people grew up with. This is understandable because we are attracted to what is familiar to us.
Second, traditional sports are easy to follow. Even though they have complex rules, they are mainly about outsmarting the other team and putting a ball in goal or through a hoop. Easy enough.
Esports are more complex, especially for those who are new to them. They involve a lot of strategy and movement that make them difficult to follow. Additionally, most esports events have convoluted rules that make the games even more complex.
That said, esports event organisers realise this and have started putting in measures to manage their events more attractively. For example, commentators who explain what is happening and why it is happening to those watching at home have made these games more attractive because people can follow along.
Esports Becoming More of a Sport
We typically associate sports with physical activity, which is why many people do not understand what esports is all about because it entails little physical activity. What these people do not realise is that sports also involve mental activity. Their favourite players are not just running around; they are also planning and strategizing as they play. The same is true for esports players.
Additionally, many esports organisations have mandated their teams to engage in physical activity to become healthier because they understand a healthy body leads to a healthy mind. Physically fit esports players have raised the standards, making it more exciting for those watching at home.
The increase in interest in esports due to this paradigm shift has not only increased interest and revenues, but it has also attracted people betting on esports teams. Finding the best esports betting websites and placing wagers on teams has become as commonplace as doing the same for traditional sports and teams.
The number of esports fans and those watching is increasing every year. Fans are not only watching their favourite teams online, but they are also attending live games. However, esports has some way to go before it becomes as popular as traditional sports like football, cricket or hockey.