[Opinion] Stop advertising in esports, Start advertising in games

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Every year, esports buffs will come forward with these charts and statistics, boasting over-the-top numbers of their viewership and talking about how unprecedented the industry is growing. Come sponsors, come one and come all. It’s your chance to advertise in a market demographic that has moved on from television and into anime, Marvel movies and video games.

Here’s the truth. Yes, the industry is growing. Yes, millions of people are watching. Here’s the fine print: these numbers are presented to you in cumulative fashion. 


Let’s take this chart from escharts.com for example. A quick look and you’ll think it wise to put your money into lolesports and all the major tournaments. What the chart doesn’t tell you, however, is that these 664.16M hours watched are spread across multiple streams in vastly different leagues across the globe… over a long period of time.

If advertisers base their decisions upon this graph, they would have been misled into thinking that investing in the LCS or LEC would reap them this amount of viewership and exposure. Instead, look at the peak viewership of 4M. That’s the number advertisers need to look at. Investing in large-scale events like the League of Legends World Championship would probably get them the eyeballs they need that are actually worth their bang for buck. 

But while 4 million may seem like a lot of people tuning in to catch the tournaments and hopefully a glimpse of your brand, I think the smart way to spend one’s money is to back the game and reach out to the masses rather than banking on people watching a very small group of elite athletes – which let’s face it, may be good, but not everyone needs to watch.

As an advertiser, I would much rather advertise my products  in the games themselves than its esports counterpart. Games such as Fortnite have had much success in this area, incorporating Marvel heroes and villains, Batman and even Star Wars. Franchises have decided to forgo the esports front and just attack the gaming front. And that’s smart; way further up the marketing funnel than the niche that is esports. On average, the Fortnite 2021 player count is anywhere between 6 and 12 million. That’s already way higher than LoL’s peak 4 million viewers.

If anything, these charts only go to show public interest in the games that happen to be esports. Frankly it is much healthier for the gaming industry as a whole to advertise with developers who would then allocate resources to the esports scene than try and inflate numbers as a whole. 

What could be better for Star Wars than having the best players of the game using a Yoda or Obi Wan skin during a World Championship? Perhaps it is time for developers to switch up their strategy and try selling their player base instead of just their esports viewers.

And with the number of gamers worldwide set to rise to 3 billion by next year, with over half in Asia alone, that’s a whole lot of reasons to put more money into the gaming communities.

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