Esports generated $519 million in revenue in 2019 in Asia, making it the No. 1 region in the world for such revenue, according to a report by market researcher Niko Partners. The growth continues in 2020 despite the pandemic, though Niko does not have a specific forecast for this year.
Overall, Niko found that Asia generated nearly half of all global esports revenue in 2019, hosting big events like Riot Games’ League of Legends Championships. Niko said that there are 510 million esports fans (defined as those who watch at least once a month) in Asia, with 595 million esports players. Mobile esports games in Asia generated $13.3 billion in 2019, 68% of global mobile esports games revenue.
But COVID-19 has slowed esports’ rapid expansion as in-person tournaments have moved to online-only or been put on hold. However, these setbacks have been offset by a significant increase in esports viewership and time spent gaming during the pandemic.
Overall, esports streaming viewership increased by 75% to 100% in Asia, and 50% to 75% of gamers are spending more time playing games during the pandemic.
Alexander Champlin, Niko’s senior analyst of esports, said in an email to GamesBeat that the future of esports is playing out across Asia with respect to esports tournaments, esports tourism, mobile esports, government support, and the development of esports infrastructure. And while the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly impacted the industry, the ways that Asia is managing and moving past these roadblocks can serve as a roadmap for the rest of the world, he said.
China is the largest esports market, in terms of both revenue and fans. China also has the most developed infrastructure for esports. South Korea is the birthplace of esports, as games like StarCraft took off there first. A major force in the industry for over a decade, South Korea continues to be one of the largest esports markets in terms of earnings, industry development, and revenue per capita.
In Vietnam, like many other Southeast Asia countries, mobile esports is where Niko sees growth and the reach into the mass market. Big games include League of Legends, Free Fire, Arena of Valor, Hearthstone, StarCraft 2, and Clash Royale.
Niko’s research methodology includes gamer surveys and focus groups, trends analysis on key topics such as esports, leading games and game company market share estimates, review of regulations and policy plus interviews of game publishers, analysis of drivers and inhibitors for growth, review of distribution, hardware, payments, internet cafes, and more.
Niko said that it defined esports revenue as that generated by elements of the esports ecosystem, including sponsorship, media licensing and team franchising, ticketing, merchandising, and livestreaming income for tournaments. Esports revenue excludes esports game revenue generated by esports game sales, in-app purchases, and other microtransactions.