Charting the global landscape of esports viewership
May 30th, 2023, Samuel Tan

Charting the global landscape of esports viewership

Video gaming has entered the Olympics. Come June 22-25, the world’s best players of virtual archery, sailing, tennis and other esports will gather in Singapore for a face-off: at the first ever Olympic Esports Week.

At present, the line-up of games mirrors traditional Olympic categories, but the inclusion of popular gaming franchise Fortnite by Epic Games (for the Shooting category) means there’s no barring other top esports titles from appearing in future editions. Think EA SPORTS FC (FIFA) for virtual football or Hellish Quart for virtual fencing?

But as much as major (e-)sporting events are about vigorous competition, they are equally about passionate spectatorship. In this article, we map the global terrain of esports fandom: how are esports followers distributed worldwide? Which markets have the highest proportion of esports followers? And which gaming franchises are most popular among esports followers in different geographical regions?

How are the world’s esports followers distributed globally?

Latest data from YouGov Global Fan Profiles, across the past 12 months, show that eight in ten (80%) of the world’s esports followers reside in the Asia Pacific. Esports followers in the Americas make up 8% of the global fanbase, while Middle East/Africa and Europe contribute 7% and 5% respectively.

Want to find out the distribution of esports followers across various markets? Contact us to learn more.

One in five residents in China (20%) and Philippines (20%) say they watch esports on a regular basis, the top two markets globally with the highest proportion of esports followers.

Three other markets in the Asia Pacific round out the top five – Indonesia (16%), Vietnam (16%) and Taiwan (16%) – where one in six residents are esports followers.

Among markets in the Middle East/Africa region, South Africa (14%) has the largest proportion of esports followers, ahead of Saudi Arabia (9%) and Morocco (9%).

In Europe, Hungary (7%) has the largest proportion of esports followers followed by Bulgaria (6%) and Romania (6%), while in the Americas, Brazil (6%) and Mexico (5%) have the largest proportion of esports followers.

Meanwhile, 5% of residents in Singapore – host of the inaugural Olympic Esports Week – say they watch esports on a regular basis.

Want to find out how the age and gender composition of esports followers varies across different markets worldwide? Contact us to learn more.

What are the top gaming titles among esports followers across different regions?

League of Legends by Riot Games is the most popular game title among esports followers globally, and ranks #1 in Asia Pacific and Europe, #3 in the Americas and #5 in the Middle East/Africa.

Arena of Valor / Honor of Kings by Tencent Games’ Timi Studio Group is the runner-up among esports followers globally. But its popularity is driven by Asia Pacific where it ranks #2 – it is out of the top 10 in the Middle East/Africa (#15) and Americas (#18), and out of the top 20 in Europe (#21).

Call of Duty by Activision takes the third place among esports followers globally, and the #1 title in the Americas, #2 in Europe and Middle East/Africa, and #3 in Asia Pacific.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) by Valve and Hidden Path Entertainment is the fourth most popular title globally and #4 in Europe. It ranks #5 in Asia Pacific, #6 in Americas and #7 in Middle East/Africa.

PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS (PUBG) and PUBG Mobile by Krafton take the fifth and sixth spots globally. The franchise’s popularity is largely driven by Asia Pacific, where the desktop/console version ranks #4 and mobile version ranks #6. The desktop/console version is also more popular in Europe at #16, compared to the mobile version at #23. The mobile version, however, is more popular in the Middle East/Africa (#9) and Americas (#13), compared to the desktop console version (#11 and #14 respectively).

FIFA by EA SPORTS, which ranks #7 globally, is among the top 3 games in most regions but is much less popular in Asia Pacific (#12). It is the #1 most popular title among esports followers in the Middle East/Africa, and ranks #2 in the Americas and #3 in Europe.

On the other hand, Cross Fire by Smilegate Entertainment, which ranks #10 globally, is very popular only in Asia Pacific (#7). It is out of the top 15 in other regions: #17 in Middle East/Africa, #21 in Americas and #22 in Europe.

Valorant by Riot Games, which ranks #16 globally, is more popular in Europe and Americas (both #9), than in the Middle East/Africa (#12) and Asia Pacific (#18). Similarly, Fortnight Battle Royale by Epic Games (#20 globally), ranks #6 and #7 in Europe and Americas, but #13 in the Middle East/Africa and #25 in Asia Pacific.

Free Fire by Garena, which ranks #22 globally, is much more popular in Americas (#10) than elsewhere: #21 in the Middle East/Africa, #23 in Asia Pacific and #25 in Europe.

Make smarter business decisions with better intelligence. Understand exactly what your audience is thinking by leveraging our panel of 20 million+ members. Speak with us today

  • To receive monthly insights about the video gaming and esports industry register here.
  • To read YouGov’s latest intelligence on the video gaming and esports sector explore here.
  • Explore our living data – for free

Methodology: YouGov Global Fan Profiles tracks the size, make-up, attitudes and behaviors of fan bases in 50+ markets around the world. Discover everything you need to know about fan bases globally. Learn more about Global Fan Profiles.

Cover Photo by Luke Walker on Getty Images