Esports Net Worth 2021: The Billion Dollar Opportunity of Esports

Last Update on September 23rd, 2021

We’ve heard it and said it. The nascent esports industry is growing rapidly and it’s worth millions, in fact no, the esports industry is set to be valued in billions.

Esports companies, esports teams, and even esports players, are worth millions. The games played in esports tournaments are worth millions. Some argue the potential value of esports net worth could one day outstrip the value of some of the most popular traditional sports like football, basketball, and boxing.

For millennial generations and younger it’s natural to play, be a fan, and for those old enough its quite normal to gamble on esports. So, what is esports net worth, today and tomorrow? And how does that so far compare to other traditional sports? What too, will be the impact of the coronavirus on esports in 2021?

Billion Dollar Opportunity of Esports - TI9 Dota 2

© The International

A $1 billion valuation for 2021

The esports industry’s overall evaluation can be pretty tricky to approach. The industry includes pretty wide areas, like streaming, gaming itself, as well as associated brand deals. However, a few decent market-wide esports net worth valuations are released every year. Looking at the one released by Newzoo, we can see that the global esports market is growing significantly. In 2019, NewZoo estimated the total revenue of the esports market would cross $1.1 billion.

Following this, the market saw immense growth going into 2020 with a 15% rise on the previous year. Beyond this, their estimate for 2021 is looking at a further year-on-year growth of 14.5%.

Newzoo estimates that the esports valuation will be coming from a few different places. This will include $833.6 million in revenue in global media rights and sponsorships. Even with some in-person events being uncertain at the moment, the projection of growth for the esports market reflects a growing interest in the topic in every sphere.

Newzoo’s Global Esports Market Report 2019, published in February last year, estimated the revenue value of the esports market would reach $1.1 billion in 2019, up over 26% year-on-year. And, that the number of esports viewers will reach over 450 million, consisting of over 200 million esports “enthusiasts” and over 250 million “occasional” watchers. Newzoo estimated that at current growth rates, the esports market will generate $1.8 billion in revenue by 2022.

The latest report also confirms that mobile esports is growing quickly, especially in markets like Southeast Asia, India, and Brazil. This has definitely contributed to the growth in esports net worth and valuation. Specifically, it is linked to another major area of growth for esports, the mobile competitive gaming market. Current estimates suggest that this could be worth up to $1.5 billion by tself by 2025.

Esports Net Worth in 2021 – Recovery from Coronavirus

Like most industries esports hasn’t been immune from the effects of coronavirus. However, unlike traditional sports, it has been in a better position to better handle things. While in-person events were canceled, online viewership for esports rose. Occasional viewership rose to 220.5 million, with 215.3 million dedicated fans.

This clearly shows a healthy appetite for a competitive game. Even as in-person events have returned, viewing figures have remained impressive showing that the increased interest was more than just a passing a fad. Revenue from sponsorships at these live events remains high, even as in-person attendance has fluctuated.

Crypto and Esports

One area where esports is seeing some great growth is cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency has been around for a while but its increasing adoption has led to it being taken more seriously. You can now use cryptocurrency to purchase esports-related goods, attend games, and even bet on matches. However, it isn’t just the consumer side that is being affected by cryptocurrency. Entire esports teams have switched over to crypto as the primary way of running their businesses. This is one area where there’s a lot of room for growth. It’ll be interesting to see how cryptocurrency continues to affect esports’ net worth going into the future.

Cryptocurrency exchange platforms Coinbase and FTX are heralding the marriage between the industries, signing multi-year multi-million dollar partnerships with both esports teams and league operators. Meanwhile, Fan Token and NFT platforms are actively creating unique content to develop fandom across the globe.

Competitive gaming and esports are really more popular than it ever has been going into the last half of 2021 and 2022. While new variants of the Coronavirus continue to shadow over im-person sporting events, most games have proven themselves capable of sustaining an audience online. With esports revenue expected to grow, this is a great time to be looking towards competitive gaming.

Esports net worth $3 billion by 2022

Goldman Sachs report from late 2018 estimated the esports market would reach a total value of $3 billion by 2022. It pointed to Fortnite’s first-year prize pool of $1 million and streamer Ninja’s $1 million valuations, as well as the $90 million deal Activision Blizzard signed with Twitch for Overwatch.

In the time since this report, these two specific games have both blown these deals away. Epic Games’ Fortnite plans have made a $1 million prize pool look modest. The Fortnite World Cup they held had a total prize pool of £30 million across the event. This included an individual prize for the Fortnite Solo’s winner, Kyle “Bugha” Geirsdorf. He walked away from the Fortnite World Cup with $3 million in prize money, while just 16 years old.

The other game mentioned in this report was Overwatch, which has also exceeded their past heights for deals. While they previously signed a $90 million deal with Twitch, they would eventually move over to YouTube. Exclusivity with YouTube came at the price of $160 million.

Bugha, winner of Fortnite World Cup

© Mike Stobe | Getty Images

Traditional Sports versus Esports

To contrast with traditional sports, KPMG’s Football Benchmark compares the earnings of football club FC Barcelona which alone reported record revenue of the equivalent of nearly $1 billion for the 2018/2019 season, along with €855 million in 2019/2020.

If esports reached a $5 billion industry in the next five years, it would still only be equivalent in value to the top 15 teams in the English Premier League. However, that’s no mean feat and esports is in a fast-growth phase, traditional sports markets, though growing, are not growing as fast.

There is also the added problem for traditional sports that viewers, especially younger ones, are exiting towards esports. A survey of young Americans found 75% of 21-35-year olds said esports took them away from traditional sports patronage.

It’s all going the right way for fast-paced and fast-growing esports

Players like Johan Sundstein (Notail) have earned $7 million playing Dota 2. Similar prize earnings can be found across titles like Fortnite, PUBG and CS:GO. These are a staggering figures, but doesn’t quite touch what teams and organizations make.

Cloud9 has been the most valuable esports team since 2018, reaching a $310 million valuation according to CNBC and Forbes. Forbes also said at the time that nine esports teams had exceeded a valuation of $100 million each. In comparison, the highest value traditional sports team is the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys worth $5 billion, but in fairness, the team was established 59 years ago.

For game developers, owners, and their parent companies, China’s Tencent topped the revenue charts with 2018 earnings of $8.3 billion in 2019. In 2020, they brought in 482 billion yuan, equivalent to $74 billion.  Activision Blizzard, with Overwatch as its best-selling game, generated $3.5 billion in revenue in 2018 but then a massive $6.49 in revenue during 2019, followed by $8.1 billion in 2020, partially boosted by the success of games like Warzone. These huge companies definitely add to the total esports net worth.

While 2020 wasn’t the biggest year for a lot of esports companies, the market showed a strong resilience to the downturn of COVID-19. Compared to similar industries, gaming is estimated to have grown by 9.3% in 2019 and 12% in 2020 in comparison to traditional sports. While esporrts has their ticket sales contract, traditional sports like the Premier League saw a decrease of nearly £1 billion over this time.

Opportunities and challenges for esports net worth in 2021 and beyond

We’re updating this article from one published in 2019. As the esports industry matures new opportunities and spin-off revenue generators are appearing.

Since the first publication, Astralis Group became the first esports team to publicly list and sell its shares on the stock markets. As we moved into 2020 the opportunity of esports stocks was realised by many. It’s now possible for investors to hedge their bets buying shares in esports teams and companies as well as game publishers. Legendary stock market investors like George Soros aren’t missing out on the esports opportunity either, he put $45 million into Activision Blizzard stocks in 2019.

Astralis Anounced first team IPO

© Astralis

Players and fans can take a different kind of gamble on esports too. Online bookmakers are increasingly offering esports bets. There are also many fantasy leagues. And, blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies are offering a secure and transparent integration of digital assets, gaming, and betting. These companies and gambling companies are all looking to engage Millennials and Generation Z.

At the time of writing, the tragic and troubling impact of the coronavirus is still being felt around the world. Traditional sporting events, leagues and tournaments have been mostly played online, without audiences in attendance. Physical esports tournaments have been largely canceled, with a few exceptions. Regardless, esports have managed to show more resilience then any other industry in dealing with challenges.