eSports are undeniably one of the hottest new online activities. In France, 3.8 million internet users aged 15 and over have already watched or attended a live eSports competition (Q3 2017) according to research from Médiamétrie.
Halfway between sports and a video game, eSports enjoy a huge potential pool of players and spectators: online gaming brought together nearly 35 million online users in December 2017 (Médiamétrie//NetRatings) and sports competitions regularly beat TV audience records. Broadcasters, platforms and brands have all duly taken note.
eSports spectators are not a homogeneous group: some are partial to a single game whilst others are more eclectic. Followers of eSports also exhibit somewhat varied preferences: among the types of competitive games enjoyed by online users, sports games are at the top (43 per cent). However, eSports is not just for sports enthusiasts. FPS, or first-person shooter games (34 per cent) and online battle arena games (27 per cent) rank second and third on the podium. Followed closely by multiplayer card, real-time strategy, combat, and role-playing games.
Beyond the competitive dimension of eSports, a digital community has built up around gaming. We also see the emergence of influencers in this area: 4.9 million online games users (11 per cent) say that they followed a gaming influencer.
Internet users primarily follow their favourite influencers online, and also on TV. They mostly use internet platforms and social networks, followed by specialised gaming actors : YouTube is widely mentioned (77 per cent), ahead of Facebook (35 per cent), Twitter (26 per cent) and Twitch (14 per cent). Game One (17 per cent) is the only television channel to play its cards right in this area.
For online users, this content is not solely about entertainment. In fact, 2.3 million of them say they have purchased a specific product after seeing an influencer use it, i.e. almost half of web users who follow gaming.
In just a few years, eSports have become a real market for advertisers, who are investing via advertising in the games and through sponsorship at competitions. In general, 61 per cent of spectators have identified sponsor brands during an event, and 29 per cent of online gamers have noticed advertising while they’re playing. In this sense, eSports represent a sector where economic stakes converge.
Although differences of opinion exist, many spectators view the presence of sponsors during tournaments positively. Furthermore, over a third of spectators consider that when a brand partners with an eSports event, then it improves its image (35 per cent) or is modern (34 per cent). Finally, 28 per cent of them believe that sponsor support for a competition is essential to its success.