Prediction: Esports in 2021 

With esports continuing to go from strength to strength, it’s interesting to look at what trends are predicted for 2021.

Despite the difficult times in many industries in 2020, the esports industry has continued to grow steadily even during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

In this post, we’ll discuss the esports trends & events in 2021, as well as make some predictions as to where we think esports is heading in 2021 and beyond.

Continued growth in 2021 and beyond

One of the first trends that we expect to continue well into 2021 is the rapid growth of esports. This is a trend also seen in various esports statistics, so we believe that 2021 set to be a big year for the whole industry.

There are currently a wide array of different games with a large following that are just starting out on the esports front. Games like Diabotical, Valorant, and Overwatch 2 are just a few of the games that are expected to make headway in esports in 2021.

With interesting new developments in streaming services as well as in (esports) betting industry, there are plenty of growth opportunities for esports in the next few years.

Another driving force behind the growth of esports is the growing viewer numbers in streaming platforms. According to Statista, viewer numbers have risen from 395 million in 2018 to 495 million in 2020. It is predicted that viewing figures for esports games will reach 626 million by 2022!

The increase in viewer numbers also means an increase in funding, as advertising and sponsorship deals become far more attractive to companies. The projected rise also bodes well for investments in esports as well as parallel fields, further helping to propel it to new heights.

Streaming platforms increasing their market share

Twitch logo

Streaming platforms like Twitch and Smashcast, as well as new streaming platforms created by Facebook, YouTube, and many others, are set to continue taking market share from services like Netflix and YouTube.

The global video streaming market was already worth a staggering 42.6B dollars in 2019 according to GrandViewResearch, with a strong upward trend expected over the next five to ten years. It is predicted that the market will grow an average of 20% per year over the next seven years, with viewer numbers of over 1.3B predicted by 2025.

The growth of streaming is largely game-focused, which in turn bodes well for the esports industry. A large number of professional gamers use streaming services as a form of supplemental income, with a number of gamers focusing solely on streaming as a main source of income.

With streaming predicted to continue to grow in popularity over the next few years, the industry will naturally grow with it.

Esports betting growing to new heights

Online gambling is a growing industry even though it’s already a mature market that has been around for over 20 years now. Esports betting is still in its infancy and we expect it to take off in the coming year with more people tuning in to watch esports games and tournaments.

Although plenty of sport betting sites have started offering esports betting, the coverage as well as viewer numbers are set to rise in 2021 and beyond. As more people tune in to watch esports there will be a growth in the demand for esports betting too. Since there is also a great selection of games that are set to start offering esports competitions in the next few years as well as even more that have started just recently, the number of games that bookmakers look to cover will increase too.

An issue that online gambling sites face when it comes to esports betting, is deciding on the odds of each game. There isn’t nearly as much history in esports as there is in other betting sports, which can mean that offering bets on these games is even riskier.

Companies like Pandascore are working to tackle this problem with AI-powered software that can generate odds for bookmakers. With more accurate odds generation, growing interest, and a large array of games still not covered by bookmakers, 2021 is set to be a big year for esports betting.

The rise of Valorant – 2021 Valorant champions tour

As one of the biggest esports competitions of 2021, the Valorant Champions Tour is set to take Valorant esports to new heights. The tour features both regional and international rounds, in much the same we’re used to seeing in Riot-organized League of Legends Tournaments.

This competition will give aspiring players the chance to compete on the international level if they win on the regional level, attracting a wide range of different players and viewers.

Valorant champions 2021

The fact that competitions like the Valorant Champions Tour and others offer players of different skill levels the chance to compete means they’re a great place for teams to discover new talent. A broader audience and plenty of local and international hype are set to propel Valorant into the frontline in 2021 and beyond.

There are also plenty of other large esports tournaments and events scheduled for 2021. Some of these are the Fortnite World Cup, the League of Legends World Championship, the Counter-Strike Global Offensive World Championship, and the Overwatch League.

Next-gen gaming tech

With both the new PS5 and Xbox X Series coming out at the end of 2020, 2021 will see a trend towards these newer consoles for console-based gaming. New technology also comes with new games and new features/possibilities that may change the console gaming scene. Given the long wait, these highly anticipated consoles are expected to reach record sales in 2021.

VR/AR games are also set to continue in their uptrend, with new technology and new games set to be released in 2021. The AR and VR trend seemed to have died down slightly over the past few years, but that’s normal in a maturing market. We expect both AR and VR technologies to continue to grow, with a portion of this growth in the esports vertical.

Another new technology that we expect to grow rapidly in the new few years is cloud gaming. With a predicted average growth rate of just shy of 50% per year over the next seven years according to Grand View Research, it’s an industry that’s still at the beginning of its journey.

Improved internet speed

With faster internet speeds around the world and much of the western world in the process of moving to 5G, faster internet speeds will make high-level gaming more accessible. The improved speeds on mobile will also help make mobile gaming more popular, with many large countries like India, Brazil, and China already showing growing adoption of mobile gaming.

Mobile gaming is something that has always been overlooked but has real potential in esports. As fast internet speeds and improved, affordable smartphone technology becomes the norm, mobile gaming may manage to outpace the rest of the market when it comes to growth in both player numbers and viewer numbers in the next few years.

More coverage of non-PC games

Virtual reality games

PC games have always dominated the esports scene, with games like League of Legends and Counter-Strike spanning the crown. As more players take to the sport who grew up playing on consoles instead of PC games, games like Call of Duty, NBA2K, and Fortnite are set to continue gaining ground on more traditional PC games.

With the advancements in mobile gaming and the release of new Xbox and PlayStation consoles, we’re expecting a broader range of esports games across a wider range of consoles.

AR and VR gaming as well as mobile gaming are also set to grow their market share in comparison to PC gaming over the next few years. With the rapid advancement in technology and plenty of new releases, a broader range of esports games is almost a certainty at this post.

AR and VR gaming as well as mobile gaming are also set to grow their market share in comparison to PC gaming over the next few years. With the rapid advancement in technology and plenty of new releases, a broader range of games is almost a certainty at this post.

Game development with an audience focus instead of purely a player focus

With the audience growing day by day, a shift from game development for players to game development for viewers is expected any day now. Whether this will happen in 2021 or in a few years from now, the growing viewer numbers are set to change the way games are developed, with more focus on the viewer being the main change.

How exactly game developers will cater to this need is still unknown. They may change the way games work to improve the viewing experience, or they may create unique methods for viewers to watch the game being played, instead of directly following along with a particular player.

The tipping point will be when esports viewers start reaching higher numbers than gamers and bringing in more revenue for the game developers. This could result in games being offered for free, as attracting talent and awareness for your game becomes more important than selling the game itself. Even if the switch is still a few years away, there is still plenty of opportunity for developers in esports-first game development, so with a focus on viewers and esports competitions instead of games as a source of entertainment. Games like Diabotical are a good example of this, but the industry standard is still developing games for the player’s entertainment.

Conclusion

Although nothing is certain, the odds seem to be in the favor of esports in 2021. With a strong uptrend in the popularity of streaming services and plenty of events and game releases planned for this coming year, it’s reasonable to project strong growth in the years to come. New technology is also set to create new trends in esports, with increased growth expected for mobile gaming, cloud gaming, and AR/VR.

Those are our predictions, but we’d love to hear yours! Are there any trends you expect that we didn’t mention? Any events we just HAVE to add to this post? Let us know via the Contact us page and we’ll see if we can add it to this post!