If you ever doubted that video games could be a spectator sport, here’s the stat to prove you wrong — gaming tournament organiser Gfinity says over 30 million people around the world have watched its 2015 eSports championships.
Gfinity is a company that puts on video game tournaments in a converted cinema screen in West London each week. The world’s top video game teams — yes, that’s a thing — battle each other on titles like “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare,” “FIFA 15,” “Counter Strike: Global Offensives,” and “Starcraft.”
The “eSports” games are streamed live online for free, but you can buy tickets to watch in person. Millions of online viewers are watching competitors play in the same way one would watch football or rugby on television. The main screen shows the video game, while the actual player is displayed in a small box in the corner of the screen.
The 30 million viewers mark comes just half way through the season, which runs from March to September. There are 25 weekly tournaments.
Gfinity flies in teams from around the world to compete at its “eSports arena” and so far this year “crews” or “squads” who have competed include OpTic, Denial, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Fnatic, and Team EnVyUs — all well known in the eSports world. Each specialises in a particular video game and prizes for events reach up to $US50,000 (£32,300).
Gfinity, which listed on London’s stock market for small companies AIM last year, is hoping to turn its eSports season into a fixture of the sporting calendar like the Premier League or tennis opens. The company announced today that Jon Varney, the former commercial director of Premiership Rugby, has joined Gfinity’s board.
Gfinity’s CEO and co-founder Neville Upton say in today’s statement: “We have delivered excellent levels of viewership in the first half of our first season as an AIM company. It means we are now on track to beat the viewership target we set ourselves for the 2015 season.” The company was originally hoping for 50 million viewers.
Upton says: “The progress made thus far reflects both the rapid growth in popularity of eSports and our ability to deliver compelling eSports events and content sought-after by a young, global audience, which is otherwise difficult to reach by advertisers and consumer brands.”
eSports is worth $US621 million globally, according to a recent industry report, with a worldwide audience of 134 million. Korea and China are the biggest markets for video game viewing, followed by North America.
Last year, Amazon paid $US970 million for video game streaming site Twitch and even ESPN has started coverage of video games.
Gfinity said today the majority of its views are on Twitch.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.