After hearing nonstop chatter about Epic Games' Fortnite, I took the plunge and downloaded it on Xbox One last week. There is a steep learning curve, but I became hooked, not only playing the battle royale format against others, but even spending time watching experts play on the popular streaming service Twitch.

It was once unfathomable that I would actually spend time watching other people play video games, but now I absolutely understand the intrigue and even see how it can be more enjoyable than watching professional athletes perform on TV. The aforesaid experience also helps me understand these new eye-opening esports statistics provided by Limelight Networks.

On average, young gamers (ages 18-25) worldwide spend an average of 3 hours and 25 minutes each week watching other people play video games online. That statistic is probably the most powerful when it comes to explaining the power of esports. The 3 hours and 25 minutes spent is nearly an hour more than the 2 hours and 33 minutes they spend watching traditional sports.

Limelight used a group of 3,000 consumers ages 18 and older in France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States and "gamer" was attached to anyone who said they play video games at least once per week.

In the U.S., young gamers spend 3 hours and 26 minutes watching people playing video games online, which is almost identical to the worldwide statistic. However, Americans are still watching more traditional sports on TV, indicating an average of 3 hours and 18 minutes watching traditional broadcast sports.

Yet, the fact that Americans who consider themselves gamers are watching more content on Twitch and YouTube than sports on stations like ESPN should be a clear indication that there is a shift in content consumption, which may eventually cause a change in the way that TV rights deals are valued.

"People aren't just playing video games anymore, they want to watch gamers play," notes Limelight Senior Vice President of Operations Dan Carney. "Just look at overnight sensation Fortnite, with YouTube reporting a record-high livestream viewership at 1.1 million simultaneous viewers."

As viewership grows, esports and online gaming will continue to put pressure on revenues from traditional sports.  

"To keep pace with the growing demand, it's critical that esports-focused businesses ensure content is accessible and provides the best possible performance to keep gamers engaged," adds Carney. "We know speedy performance and fast downloads are critical factors in online gaming, and the same goes for platforms such as YouTube and Twitch with esports streams. Rebuffering and lag times are unacceptable in the world of online gaming and esports."

The Limelight study found that 77% of worldwide gamers have expressed frustrations with downloading video games.

Another big takeaway for the gaming industry is the growth of casual gaming, mostly driven by the smartphone, which was the top-rated device for gamers.  Gamers older than 60 are spending almost five hours a week playing these types of games, indicating that the video game market should only expand with further use and obsession with smartphones.

Published on: Apr 2, 2018