The League of Legends Season 2 Championship just concluded this weekend. This was the largest in eSports history with a $5 million prize pool, with the winning team TPA pocketing a cool $1 million. Around 10,000 fans attended this event in person in Los Angeles, and an estimated 1 million fans watched the show this weekend in the US, and another 2 million worldwide. Other regular championships such as IPL and Major League Gaming are also consistently drawing 250k+ unique viewers in the US.
Compare this to viewership numbers for some well-known primetime TV shows:
Shark Tank (6.2 million)
X Factor (2.4 million)
Grimm (4.9 million)
Then consider that the viewership numbers generated by eSports are all online, i.e. over the Internet. If a major TV channel such as Spike or G4 were to carry these events, viewership could easily be 5x – 10x current numbers, and equal or surpass well-known TV shows. MLG already claims that it gets more viewers in the 18 – 24 male segment than any leading cable channel or TV show.
Looking at Korea often foretells the future in gaming and mobile trends. GomTV – one of the best produced Starcraft shows – announced over 50 million viewers over the course of a 6 month season last year. Over 120,000 fans showed up in-person to a live event. There are Korean on-air TV channels dedicated to broadcasting these games. Really.
It’s easy to dismiss gamers as a bunch of nerds, a niche audience. But its hard to ignore the numbers. Warcraft has around 10 million active players. League of Legends has 15 million+ (2011). And then there are Starcraft, Street Fighter IV, Tekken, Halo, Diablo, Minecraft and a host of others. Video games have already been making more money than Hollywood for 3 years now, and are the #1 grossing apps on all mobile devices. They are solidly mainstream.
I think MLG, IGN, Twitch.tv (Justin.tv), Curse and similar companies are well-positioned to ride this wave up over the next few years as eSports continues to get bigger and bigger.
If you’re looking to start a new pro-gaming team and need funding, hit me up.