How Big is eSports in London?

Forget about streaming songs and movies, watching people play video games was one of the biggest trends in 2019. Over 300 million streamed video game competitions, including four million viewers from the UK.  

Officially known as eSports, the world of competitive video gaming is now worth £840 million ($1.1 billion). It has a fan base of over 454 million and employs millions of people worldwide. Stick around to find out the state of eSports in the UK, more so in London.

Four Million eSports Fans

Research firm YouGov estimates about 7% of the UK population (4 million) watch electronic sports regularly. Admittedly, Britain lags behind China, the US, and Germany among countries with the biggest shares of eSports viewers. 

But British eSports fans are also avid video game players, with the average fanatic spending eight hours playing video games each week. Another interesting report is that London’s video game fan base shows plenty of support to popular British eSports teams, namely:

  • Fnatic
  • Prophecy
  • Endpoint
  • MnM Gaming
  • Team Dignitas

Tournaments at Wembley Stadium

PES video game developer Konami will host the 2020 UEFA EURO eSports competition in Wembley later in the summer. It hopes the event will attract tens of thousands of fans locally and millions of streamers globally, in a similar fashion to Epic Games’ Fortnite. That’s even though Konami’s event will concentrate on European national teams’ football.  

Konami aside, London has been hosting dozens of eSports tournaments each year. Some of the competitions have comprised of globally recognized teams and players. They also had some of the biggest prize pool payouts.

Below are some of the top eSports events scheduled to take place in London in 2020:

  • Overwatch League: London Spitfire Home stand
  • Esports Legends join ICE
  • Call of Duty League
  • GAMESYM: Gaming, Mental Health, and eSports
  • BLAST Premier Spring Series

3000 Professionals

Slightly over 3,000 people play eSports professionally in the UK. Similar to the US, London Pro gamers specialize in a few of the most popular video games. Fortnite, Call of Duty, FIFA, Counter-Strike, League of Legends, and PUBG are a few of the most popular games in the UK.

Jaden “Wolfiez” Ashman, a 15-year-old boy from Essex, was the highest-grossing eSports player from London in 2019. He won £1 million from the Fortnite World Cup event held in July, ranking second to 16-year-old American Kylie “Bugha” Griesdorf.

Although Jaden earned over £1 million, most London-based eSports professionals struggle at the international stage. To put some context, Britain ranks eleventh amongst the most successful eSports countries/regions in the world.

When it comes to individual success, only Jaden represented the UK among the top 100 most paid eSports players in the world. There were only two Brits amongst the top 200 players in 2019, prompting fans and players to call for more attention to the industry.

Unprecedented Growth Numbers

Although Britain’s eSports market leapfrogs the world market, it’s growing at an unparalleled rate, according to analytical firm Statista. Much of the rise in growth rates can be linked to the growing investments from foreign companies hoping to forge eSports teams in London and beyond.

And it’s not just video games drawing the attention of financiers. There’s a growing focus on online gambling companies as well, especially now that they’ve become part of the eSports industry. Online casinos regularly partner with Twitch streamers to promote their games.

On the other end, there are many streamers who showcase their skills playing blackjack and poker instead of FIFA, Fortnite, or League of Legends. Some streamers also play the best high variance slots hoping to impress their fans should they win tens of thousands of pounds on their lucky day. For the uninitiated, high variance slots pay high amounts of money to winners, albeit less frequently than low variance slots.

British gambling powerhouse 888 Sports believes eSports will continue to develop as an industry if the government and people show more support to video game professionals. It also calls for more effort to improve Internet speeds throughout the region, noting the Internet is a fundamental part of the eSports industry.

All Major Games are represented

The eSports market is broad and consists of tons of teams and leagues. Despite that, you’ll find Londoners who’ve played nearly all popular eSports games. Whether it’s Multiplayer online battle arenas or first shooters, there are British players who play these games professionally.

To illustrate, below is a representation of the top British eSports players and the games they’ve been playing:

  • Jaden Ashman—Fortnite
  • Kyle Jackson—Fortnite
  • Donovan Hunt—FIFA 19
  • Treis Morris—Call of Duty: Infinite War
  • Craig Rathbone—SMITE
  • Joshua Bennett—Heroes of the Storm
  • Alex McMeekin—Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
  • Rhys Price: Call of Duty: Black Ops

Of course, there are a lot more eSports video games. But all in all, the games have fans in London, some who play the titles professionally.

Gaming Software and Merchandise

The UK’s video game software sector is worth an estimated £1.57 billion as per a report by the BBC. The hardware industry raked £110 million in 2018, while merchandise and other subsets of the video game industry brought in £4.01 billion.

In total, the entire video game industry in the UK is worth £5.7 billion and is projected to hit £6 billion in 2020. Esports has played a significant role in the industry’s success. Case and point, PUBG and Fortnite helped British software retailers earn over £2 billion in 2018.

Virtual reality, an innovation earlier though to be the future of video games, has been struggling. However, there’s a rise in the number of video game movies, books, and fashion items inspired by eSports in general.

The Takeaway

London is one of the most significant cities in the eSports industry. It regularly hosts global tournaments and conferences. And in doing so, it has helped nurture thousands of Londoners who now depend on playing video games to earn a livelihood. The industry is projected to continue growing in popularity, but experts are calling for the government, financiers, and fans to show more support to players.