The global eSports audience grew in 2021, which is surprising in some respects.
In 2020, a large portion of the world went into lockdown, which meant people were at home with time on their hands. There was no shock in seeing viewing figures go up from around 397m to just under 436m a year.
The surprise comes in 2021 when people have been able to get out and about once again; numbers have increased again, this time to 474m. There’s no sign of slowing either; it is projected by Statista that more than 577m will watch eSports by 2024.
If that happens, then we’re either going to see a huge uplift in the numbers watching existing games or new titles stealing significant market share and adding more layers of appeal for casual gamers.
For instance, League of Legends and Dota 2 are popular now, but they’re quite niche; will titles such as eFootball offer soccer fans a route into eSports when the developer sorts the issues out? Is the rapid growth going to come from existing titles or new offerings?
There are a host of titles expected to be a success in 2022, and they’re going to play a part in taking views up to beyond the 500m mark. Are they new titles, or are gamers simply going to flock to existing games? Here are the eSports to watch out for in 2022.
League of Legends
League of Legends, colloquially known as ‘League’ or ‘LoL’, is a multiplayer online battle arena that is one of the most-watched eSports on the scene today.
Their finals, known as The Worlds, hit 2.2m peak viewing figures, which shows no sign of slowing into 2022. In fact, LoL is becoming more popular than ever, despite being a 12-year-old game.
A Bwin infographic on eSports reveals there are 12 tier-one professional LoL leagues and a prize fund of $2m available for those successful in the Worlds. It’s a behemoth of the eSports world, and nothing will change that in 2022.
Dota 2 is close to LoL in terms of popularity, but its strength is the prize money. It has a major tournament known as The International 10, which has a prize fund of $40m.
That is mainly provided by viewers who pledge funds themselves as part of their viewing experience. It’s an interesting mechanic which ensures that the multiplayer online battle arena remains popular and will do in 2022.
Like LoL, it has seen strong figures this year, with 2.74m peak viewers for the competition this year in Romania.
Call of Duty
It could be said Call of Duty is a crossover game in that it has a large amateur fanbase as well as being an eSport. If you stop a casual gamer in the street and ask them about LoL or Dota 2, you may get blank looks.
However, very few people haven’t heard of CoD, making it an interesting prospect as an eSport. It wasn’t one of the top titles in 2021, but improvements from the developer have fine-tuned the title ahead of the new year.
The universal appeal of the gameplay and the long-standing franchise popularity means it may well be one to keep an eye on in 2022, not least as the game had a $6m prize fund in 2019, comparable with the very best titles.
This isn’t a title that will take eSports by storm just yet, but it is worth keeping an eye on for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it had a horrible debut and was very disappointing after taking over from the popular PES series.
It’s due to a big update to iron out some of the awful bugs, but if Konami gets it right, it could change eSports forever. Why? Because it would finally be a soccer game worth investing time in.
EA Sports’ title FIFA is the main title, but it has major flaws; competitors must spend thousands to get a decent team, and there have been accusations of scripting.
That means there isn’t a reputable soccer game out there. With soccer being the world’s most popular sport, if there were a good title for people to follow, it could attract many viewers to the industry.
Many people, both players, and viewers, will be hoping Konami gets the release right at the second attempt.