In our previous article, we explored eSports viewership. Today we take a look at participation in eSports to understand more about the life and thoughts of eSports players… both amateur and professional.
Understanding the mindset and behavior of this targeted and growing consumer set poses opportunities for brands in this space to communicate effectively with a relevant – and youthful – audience.
eSports players in the Middle East start between the ages of 21 and 25
eSport as a whole is a relatively new field with the majority of viewers and players being young adults. It is not surprising then that over 70% of players globally, started their practice aged 25 or younger. In KSA and the UAE, this is skewed towards the age 21-25 bracket, with nearly 30% of players having started playing eSports at this age.
eSports mainly introduced via friends or social media
The majority of eSports players in the Middle East were introduced to the sport due to playing with friends or through social media – the latter being a particularly strong influence in KSA. In KSA, siblings have also played a more pertinent role in their introduction to eSports than the global average.
The influence of social media is particularly prevalent in consumer behavior in KSA, so it follows suit that it also impacts on eSports following.
Incidence of professional eSports playing is higher in the Middle East than the global average
Of those who play eSports in any form, a third of players globally classify themselves as casual gamers, with 38% self-classifying themselves as serious players and 30% as professionals. In the UAE and KSA, the percentage of professional gamers is higher than the global average, up at 34% and 37% respectively.
In both countries, there is also a higher incidence of those claiming to be serious players, with fewer players classifying themselves as casual gamers. This is particularly pronounced in KSA where only 15% of players deem themselves as being in the casual league.
The majority of professional players have been playing for between one and two years. Very few have been playing for over five years, which makes sense given the newness of the sport.
Nearly half of all players are self-sponsored or sponsored by contributions, this equating to the set who deem themselves serious but not professional players. Of the professional players, the majority are sponsored by a brand, with a few being sponsored by the school, college, or office sports teams – presenting opportunities for brands operating in this space to consider eSports sponsorship in order to communicate with this growing group of consumers.
eSports are streamed predominantly via YouTube or Facebook
Most players prefer to stream their online gameplay with 43% streaming it on YouTube and 30% streaming on Facebook. Stream TV, Twitch, and Mixer are also used to stream gameplay, with 36% of players globally choosing not to stream. In the UAE, there is a stronger reliance on YouTube and Facebook than the global average which ties in with what we have seen regarding the prevalence of social media channels in this region. In KSA, there is interestingly a higher than average incidence of those who don’t stream.
This ties in with what we saw in the eSports viewership article, indicating that YouTube is clearly the dominant platform for eSports and the one on which to advertise to reach this set of consumers.
eSports players in KSA have more followers than those in the UAE
Approximately 40% of players have a following of 5,000 or more, which aligns with professional status. In KSA, this percentage is higher than in the UAE or the global average.
Views per season are of course harder to achieve. Approximately 18% of players attain over 5,000 views per season, with the UAE and KSA adhering closely to this number.
This presents a focused opportunity for marketers and brands to target those players with high followings and views per season, leveraging off this streamlined access to eSports enthusiasts.
eSports playing naturally highest amongst students
The incidence of players earning a viable living from eSports is still fairly low. Naturally, it is higher amongst students than it is working professionals, who play more for entertainment than to make money. 40% of student gamers in the UAE and 29% in KSA claim that they make enough money via gaming to take care of their personal needs or to be financially independent.
In KSA, as we have already seen, there is a higher incidence of those already competing professionally, including amongst students. In the UAE, there is a high incidence of students who plan to play eSports professionally after they have completed their studies. This is a clear entry point into communication with this youthful set of imminent consumers.
Ripe opportunities for consumer communication to a targeted market
eSports are taking off globally, with a predicted growth rate of 9% from 2019 to 2023 worldwide. The Middle East is no exception.
As we saw from our previous report on eSports viewership, sport video games and racing games are the most popular game types in this region, indicating a specific area of focus for brands wishing to communicate to eSports consumers.
As noted above, YouTube is by far the most preferred platform, according to players and viewers alike. eSports followings are higher amongst the youth, presenting marketers with opportunities to communicate with this market.
Sponsorship is an efficient way to share brand communication, leveraging off the views and followers that eSports players are gaining. It is recommended that brands look to engage with eSports players on a long-term basis rather than seeking ad hoc advertising opportunities. It is the long-term sponsorship opportunities that have the potential to improve brand perception amongst a loyal and growing set of players and followers, in the Middle East and beyond.
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