The Dutch esports market: Let's Play! 2021

Diverse esports landscape becomes more mature

The Netherlands has an active esports community with a share of 12% among the population aged 16-65 who consume esports once a week and an overall reach (penetration rate) of 26%. The Dutch esports audience is predominantly young and male, as 82% of consumers are below 40 years old and 72% are male. Esports are well organised through competitions and tournaments, making esports a popular form of entertainment in the Netherlands.

Leading stakeholders band together in esport industry interest group

The rapid onset of esports competitions has found solid footing in the Netherlands, with the most prominent competitions focusing on the classic games “League of Legends”, “DOTA 2”, and “FIFA”. Outside of the competition market, the streaming of esports has found remarkable popularity amongst younger audiences, with Twitch and Youtube being the dominating platforms that host most popular Dutch streamers. Within the esports market, revenues are generated from esports media rights, tickets and merchandise at tournaments, sponsorships, direct advertising and publisher fees. The tournaments range from small, amateur online streams, to grand physical events with a live audience and significant prizes for the winners, drawing competitors and fans from around the world.

One of the most important esports leagues in the Netherlands is the eDivisie; an esports league featuring the clubs also seen in the ‘Eredivisie’ of Dutch football, running in parallel to the Dutch football league. This is played in the renowned football game by EA Sports, FIFA. Additionally, a new competition has been launched recently for the second-tier football clubs in the Netherlands. The ‘Keuken Kampioen Divisie’, in collaboration with Gamers First, has organized the first esports fan tournament, featured by Rocket League. These competitions have blossomed into large-scale tournament, with 19,000 fans watching the final of the eDivisie via livestream. This highlights the relationship between the esports and traditional sports fan bases, which is supported by the findings from the Deloitte study ‘Let’s Play! 2021 – The European esports market’. For the purpose of this report, a consumer survey among some 20,000 esports fans in 12 European countries and regions was conducted. The results of this survey show that 81% of consumers from the Dutch esports audience are also a sports fan, and 72% stated to have a favourite sports team.

With esports moving more and more into the mainstream, dozens of parties in the Dutch esports ecosystem have recently joined forces in the industry interest group ‘Brancheorganisatie esports Nederland’[1]. Their focus will be on all types of professional and non-professional esports games, and their mission statement is to “make the Netherlands internationally renowned as a market leader in the esports sector’’. This development may lead to The Netherlands joining the ranks of Denmark and South-Korea, where esports have been taken seriously as a sport and as a career for much longer.

[1] https://www.esportsclub.nl/artikelen/esports-brancheorganisatie-nederland

Esport consumers are young, digital natives and predominantly male

The esports audience in the Netherlands can be considered an interesting target group for any company, as 82% of the audience is under 40 years, hence belonging mostly to digitally-affine and well-educated generations. However, women are underrepresented in this audience, as almost three-in-four esports consumers are male (72%). Taking a closer look at the age demographics, figures show that 29% of esports consumers are between 16 and 25, 53% are between 26 and 40 and 18% are between 41 and 55 years old. 

Regarding consumer monetisation, there is still a lot of untapped potential. Among the 16-65 year-old Dutch population, 14% have made esports-related purchases at least once, including people who have never watched esports themselves but have bought, for example, tickets to an esports events as a gift. Among the esports audience in the Netherlands, 25% hold a paying membership with an esports team, while 17% hold a free membership. Among others, the limited B2C monetisation can be attributed to the availability of high-quality free content.

Pandemic conditions trigger ongoing transformations within the esports scene

The COVID-19 pandemic had a positive effect on the popularity of esports
in The Netherlands. With sport events in the Netherlands cancelled in the wake
of the COVID-19 pandemic, esports and gaming have seen a rapid rise in
popularity as people looked for alternative forms of entertainment. Of the
total esports audience, 60% started watching during the pandemic. Of consumers who already watched esports before the pandemic, 54% increased their esports consumption.

The increased popularity of esports in the Netherlands combined with the more professionalized landscape will also lead to more opportunities for advertisers. Besides sponsorship deals, advertisements can either be placed on-site at live events or during broadcast of esports competitions and leagues. Therefore, it will be interesting to observe whether the newly attracted spectators will be “locked-in” and stick to esports in the long term.

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