What you need to know

The barriers to esports viewing continue to fall away as the global influence of esports continues to grow. Awareness and interest have been increasing for years and the shutdown of traditional sports, and reliance on gaming during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this trend. Many people watched esports for the first time or deepened their dedication to competitive video gaming. Although growth is anticipated to slow when traditional sports return, the esports audience will continue to diversify, opening up opportunities for non-gaming brands to participate in this growing market.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • The impact of COVID-19 on consumer behavior and the esports market

  • How the emphasis on free content has shifted esports’ focus from in-person to digital

  • Why expanding esports’ diversity is necessary to accommodate a US audience

  • How brands can work with esports players to reach consumers outside of competitions

Consumer research was fielded in early May 2020 and reflects esports attitudes behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic as restrictions on movement began to ease and businesses began to reopen across the US.


For the purposes of this Report, Mintel has used the following definitions:

  • eSports is competitive video gaming at a professional level and in an organized format with a clear distinction between teams and players playing against each other.

  • Gaming content viewers are adults who watch other people playing video games (including esports or non-competitive video games).

  • Active esports viewers are adults who have watched esports within the past 12 months.

Other video game content (including non-competitive video game viewing) is discussed in the context of esports, but is not the primary focus. For more on other gaming content and influencers, see Gaming Influencers: Why People Watch Gamers – US, April 2020.

COVID-19: Market context

The first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the US in January 2020. On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global health pandemic, and on March 13, President Trump declared a national emergency in the US.

Across the US, state-level stay-at-home orders rolled out throughout the months of March and April, remaining in place through May, and in some cases June. During this time, referred to as lockdown, non-essential businesses and school districts across the nation closed or shifted to remote operations.

During re-emergence, all 50 states have relaxed stay-at-home orders and allowed businesses to operate with varying levels of social distancing measures in place. The continued spread of COVID-19 infections has driven some states to slow down or reverse course on reopening plans. Mintel anticipates the US will remain in a state of flux through 2021, until a vaccine is available.

Economic and other assumptions

The analysis provided reflects an estimated range of the market’s prospects in the light of the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Our economic assumptions are based on CBO 10-year economic projections released on July 2, 2020. The CBO expects US GDP to fall by 5.8% in 2020 and recover to 4.0% growth in 2021.Unemployment estimates from the CBO indicate a 10.6% rate for 2020 and declining to 8.4% for 2021, which is slightly more positive than initial expectations (11.5% in 2020 and 9.3% in 2021) though expectations are that it will remain above 5% through 2025.

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