Which are the most popular sports among gamers – and where does esports rank?
May 12th, 2023, Rishad Dsouza

Which are the most popular sports among gamers – and where does esports rank?

YouGov Global Profiles data tells us that gamers are slightly more likely than the general population to be sports fans. A third of them (33%) describe sports as a topic of interest compared to 28% of the overall population globally. Given the natural links between the gaming industry and the world of esports, it is also no surprise that esports holds a special place in the hearts of gamers – but is it the most popular sport among this group?

A fifth of gamers across the world say they follow esports on a regular basis, making it the third most popular sports activity among them. Football takes first place and is followed by more than a quarter of gamers worldwide (27%), with basketball trailing narrowly (25%). Note that gamers in this piece refer to those who play video games on PC or console for at least an hour each week.

Swimming (19%) and table tennis (18%) round off the top five. The top five globally skew heavily towards sports that are popular in the APAC region – with the large populations in markets like China, India and Indonesia holding sway on global averages. Table tennis, for instance, is followed by only 7% of consumers in the Americas and Europe, respectively, and 12% of consumers in MENA.

Racquet sports – badminton (18%) and tennis (17%) also enjoy significant global popularity. Volleyball (16%), boxing (14%) and motorsport (14%) round off the global top 10 among gamers. 

As indicated earlier, there can be sharp regional variances in the shares that follow sports including esports. The chart below looks at the five most popular sports in each region as well as esports popularity data.

Out of the four major regions, esports ranks in the top five only in APAC (24%). But that is not to say that gamers elsewhere are not fans – nearly one in seven fans in MENA (15%) and over a tenth of fans in the Americas are also say they follow esports regularly (12%). A tenth of fans in Europe are also fans (9%).

Looking at other sports, football (the soccer kind) and basketball feature in the top five in every market. Football takes a particularly clean lead over any other sport among gamers in Europe (34%). Tennis (22%) and basketball (19%) enjoy the support of roughly a fifth of gamers there. Motorsport (17%) and athletics (15%) round off the top five.

Basketball takes the top spot among APAC’s gamers (27%). Badminton (25%) and table tennis (24%) are followed by a quarter of this group.

Football (25%), basketball (23%) and American football (22%) are followed by more than a fifth of gamers in the Americas. Boxing (18%) and volleyball (16%) also have their share of takers.

Football’s popularity in MENA rivals that in Europe (32%), giving it a clear lead over swimming (23%), which is the second-most followed sport among gamers there. Basketball (19%), tennis (19%) and boxing (17%) round off the top five among gamers in these markets.

It will be interesting to note how these preferences shift over the next few years, especially considering that esports has just started receiving the kind of high-profile recognition typically accorded to popular traditional sports. Even the Olympics has made its forays into the world of esports, with the inaugural Olympic Esports Series to be held between June 22-25 this year and had even hosted an Olympic Virtual Series in lead up to Tokyo 2020. Over the coming years, this shift could well lead to more people – both gamers and otherwise – getting into esports.

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Methodology: YouGov Global Profiles is a globally consistent audience dataset with 1000+ questions across 43 markets. The data is based on continuously collected data from adults aged 18+ years in Great Britain, the US, Australia, India and the UAE. The sample sizes for YouGov Global Profiles will fluctuate over time, however the minimum sample size is always c.1000. Data from each market in this piece uses a nationally representative sample apart from India and UAE, which use urban representative samples. Learn more about Global Profiles.