World Cup Fever Aside – What Can Social Media Tell Us About the Popularity of eSports?

By on June 21, 2018

Non-gamers are likely to remain oblivious to the sheer size and scale of live gaming events – tournaments where the very best players come together in a face off to become undisputed champion of their cherished game. Huge audiences tune in to watch live streams of the contests and these are growing rapidly day-by-day. Today, tournaments of this kind are raking in view counts of around 500 million.

(While commonly being referred to as eSports, in this post we’ll refer to them as live gaming events – you’ll get the gist in a few paragraphs time.)

In order to understand what kinds of people of viewing these events, we looked to the vast social and digital space for answers – until we had over 250,000 posts that were related to the following video games: first person shooter Counterstrike, Dota 2, online multiplayer strategy game League of Legends, basketball hit NBA 2K, the FIFA series and American Football game Madden.

Here’s what we found out about the audiences dedicated to these games:

Each social platform plays a different role 

Depending on the platform, the social conversations had about live video game tournaments differ:

  • YouTube – used to show highlights and discuss the talking points through comments
  • Reddit – the post-match analysis space – where the critics meet
  • Tumblr – hones in on the overall league performances from a wider perspective
  • Instagram – memes, memes and more memes
  • Twitter – 42% of the total conversations surrounding live gaming events take place on Twitter – and it’s mostly news

(data collected from Pulsar TRAC)

Gamers are different to sports gamers

Traditional gaming behaviour cannot be confused with the sports gamers we’re discussing here – and this was demonstrated from the insights we collected.

Audiences for sports games are definitely part of a minority. 93% of the discussions we found accounted for traditional gamers talking Counterstrike, Dota 2, and League of Legends. Gaming content is the primary focus for this particular audience – who gather to discuss gaming host platforms like Steam and have plenty of interest in high quality gaming products and graphics enhancers such as those from brands like Razer.

Those who joined conversations around Madden, FIFA, and NBA 2K tournaments were a measly 7% – very much with their own DNA.

Sports games such as FIFA and Madden have an audience that share a similar passion with the real life sports as well, instead of gaming tournaments. There’s also a commitment to sticking to one preferred game, which creates and audience of individuals keen on segregating themselves. There’s also a link to geographic location, as we discovered sports gaming audiences that are UK-based prefer FIFA to the US sports games Madden and NBA 2K.

Specific teams or competitions do not dictate the interests of the sports games audience in live gaming, unlike those who follow more ‘traditional’ games. Tournament interest is few and far between – as this audience prefers to follow individual players on services such as Twitch, often watching gameplay of the now hugely popular Fortnite. Influencers within these audiences are similarly focused on sports in real life. For instance, FIFA fans often tie their interests in the game itself closely with their passion for soccer.

What we’ve learned is that conversations surrounding sports-based live gaming tournaments are increasing. However, this growth is quite marginal – increasing by 4% since 2017 which is similar to the growth of the industry itself.

Different communities for different games 

There are individual gaming communities – we know this for certain, although the discussions regarding different games within these communities is minimal. Gaming communities are usually formed around a fan favorite title, and this goes for both traditional games such as Counterstrike & League of Legends, and sports games such as FIFA.

The hardcore fans within our sports eSports search do not engage with casual fans online. So to conclude, sports fans are passionate about sports, while eSports gamers are the complete opposite.

About Tom Bracher

Tom Bracher is the UK Marketing Lead at Pulsar Platform, an audience intelligence tool which was born out of a research agency.

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