esports industry in 2018

Esports Industry in 2018 by the Numbers

Over the last few 2017 business review articles, we’ve covered just about every topic possible. That is with the exception of esports. Well, now we’re fixing that by taking a look at how much the esports scene has grown, who the top gamers are, and more. This is MMOGames’ look at the esports industry in 2018.

The infographics used in this article were created by Filmora. The data was collected by NewZoo, Business Insider, and a number of esports dedicated sites. To make it easier to read we’ve broken the larger infographics up into individual segments. Not only does this make it easier to look at the data it means we can talk about each part one at a time.

If you’d like to read more about the state of the games industry in 2017, including top-selling games, revenue, and who is playing, I encourage you to check out the articles that have come before this one:

2017 Online Games Financial Review
2017 Games Industry by the Numbers
2017 Games Industry Revenue


Esports Revenue

The easiest place to start is of course with esports revenue. In 2017 esports revenue was at $696 million. By 2021 revenue from esports will reach 1.6 billion dollars. While it is certainly an interesting number, it would have also been nice if the chart had shown 2019 and 2020 so we could look at how quickly it would be getting to that number. Despite the lack of information from Filmora, it is interesting to know how big esports will be.

The next question that needs to be asked is of course, where is that revenue coming from? In 2018, 40% of all esports revenue will come from sponsorships which come in at several levels. Teams and individuals competing are sponsored and so are the events themselves.

What is most notable is that merchandise and tickets make up the smallest segment, not even managing to break the 100 million dollar mark. This means that esports, like other forms of entertainment (including gaming focused websites), rely on ads. Without those ads, esports may still be incredibly niche instead of the massive money powerhouse that they are.


Esports Audience Size Growth

Audiences may not bring in a lot of money through merchandise and ticket sales but they still play a vital role in the esports scene. After all, if no one is around to see the ads, no one will advertise. Filmora has broken down the esports audience into two groups: enthusiasts, the people who watch religiously, and the occasional viewer. The occasional viewer has always outnumbered the enthusiasts, though it is predicted that the audience will be very nearly split 50/50 in 2019. In 2017 the global esports audience was at 335 million people and this year it is expected to be 380 million. By 2020 it’s anticipated that there will be nearly 600 million people watching esports.

They’re also suggesting that there won’t be a massive increase from 2017 this year. Some of this is certainly down to the fact that the interest in the MOBA scene is dying. So with one of the major esports genres dying the scene isn’t able to grow quite as much as it normally would be. I highly doubt we’ll see any of the major MOBAs die this year, but the ones that have always been a bit smaller aren’t safe. After this year the esports scene will be stable again and continue with the growth you might expect from the industry.


Top 5 Games Awarding Prize Money

Since I mentioned the top games in MOBAs it only makes sense to now transition to the top games awarding prize money. This can be a good indication of how well a game is doing. So, on the MOBA front, you can safely say that Dota 2, League of Legends, and Heroes of the Storm are all safe for some time. This does leave the question of where Smite is at, it could possibly be number 6 for all we know. CSGO and Starcraft II are doing amazingly well, especially when you consider that they came out in 2012 and 2010 respectively.

Also, the amount of money being awarded for these games is massive. In total, we’re talking about $278,278,245.41. Nearly half of that money coming from Dota 2 alone. So yes, there may have been some talk recently about Dota 2 aging a bit, but that doesn’t matter a bit. The game actually came out in 2013, which makes it several years younger than the oldest game on that list. For the record, the oldest game is League of Legends which came out in 2009. I haven’t seen anyone saying that LoL is getting old.


Top Earning Pro Gamers

Finally, we leave off our adventure in money with a look at the top-earning pro gamers. If you’re wondering who is winning all that money we just talked about, you might want to look at these guys first. The top player is KuroKy aka Kuro Salehi Takhasomi, who plays Dota 2 for Team Liquid. He was the first player to reach 1,000 wins in his pro career and he’s also one of only 3 people who has competed in every International to date.

In fact, much of this top list is made up of players from Team Liquid’s Dota 2 team. The one exception on the list is Saahil Arora, aka UNiVeRsE. He plays Dota 2 for Fnatic. You might be sensing a bit of a theme here between all the top earners. UNiVeRsE was in fact crowned the top earner in 2017. So…it must have been a hell of a year for Team Liquid.


In the end, you might be asking yourself what you should take away from this article. I would recommend taking away these two things:

  1. The esports scene is still going strong and things are only looking up for the scene on the whole.
  2. Advertisements are the cost of entertainment in today’s world. So, if you want to continue to get great entertainment, be it a tournament, your favorite youtuber, or articles on websites please turn off Adblock.


Sources: NewZoo, Filmora


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About Shannon Doyle

Shannon first discovered MMOs in 1999 when she picked up the newly launched Everquest. This started a lifelong love affair with online gaming that has taken her around the world and brought her to While she still pines for the streets of Paragon, the City of Heroes, today she spends most of her gaming time walking across Tyria in Guild Wars 2, roleplaying with anyone who says hello.