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Let's play! 2020

The European esports market  

The European esports market experienced further successful development in 2019. The market is being keenly watched to see if growth will continue in 2020 despite – or perhaps even because of – the COVID-19 pandemic.

No surprise

It was no surprise that 2019 continued the trend of consecutive annual growth for the esports industry. That trend was expected to continue in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted business plans, as it did with so many industries. However, the esports ecosystem has in part escaped the impact brought on by the COVID-19 restrictions. Furthermore, some stakeholders have successfully managed the situation beyond mere damage control, capitalising on the versatility and adaptability of esports’ digital medium.

These developments in 2019 and 2020 with a special spotlight on the COVID-19 pandemic is what this study “Let’s Play! 2020 – The European esports market” focuses on.

Becoming mainstream

Regarding the industry’s development, 2019 was a worthy follow-up to a strong 2018, confirming that esports is well on its way to becoming mainstream. The worldwide audience grew by 12 per cent in 2019, reaching 443 million people, with Europe being one of the esports hotspots after Asia and North America. To get a clear picture of the European esports market, Deloitte ran two extensive surveys focussed on the different segments of the European esports industry, the direct market participants and company representatives from across the industry.

COVID-19 changes the ecosystem’s dynamics

While the market was set for growth in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the dynamics of the esports world in unforeseen ways. The governmental restrictions in connection with the pandemic have led to a major shift in the esports offering and altered consumer behaviour, making long-term forecasts difficult to perform.

During the first six months of an exceptional 2020, the absence of traditional sport and entertainment events meant esports clearly moved into the public focus. In spite of increased user numbers, the economic consequences of the pandemic vary considerably for the different segments of the esports ecosystem. While some organisations were able to continue or even expand their business activities, others were forced to shut down their operations temporarily.

So, while the esports sector may appear to have coped better with the crisis than other industries, the numbers displayed in the 2020 Let’s Play! report show that no simple conclusion can be drawn. It will be interesting to observe whether the esports market will continue to grow despite – or perhaps even because of – the COVID-19 pandemic.

The industry developments in 2019 and to this point in 2020 underline the ecosystem’s dynamic and innovative character. There is still significant experimentation going on within the industry, and market participants are learning fast, as two experts substantiate in interviews conducted for this report. It will be fascinating to see how the European esports ecosystem develops in the future, what innovations it will bring and how it will finally emerge from the crisis.

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