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Before the return of sports and live events, many people presumed that it was a big opportunity for esports to not only fill the gap during that period but also to grow its audience substantially.
By leveraging Nielsen Esports Fan Insights — which provides global and local fan data, and offers a view into fan gaming and media behavior, engagement, and purchasing decisions — we can see clear and comparable analysis into esports and sports fans across markets.
Looking at fans for the top sports in each country, the data shows different cultures generally have different fields of interest. Take badminton for instance — it is the top sport in China, No. 4 in South Korea, and No. 6 in Japan, yet it does not draw as much attention in the UK, Germany, or France. Conversely, football/soccer is popular across nearly all markets. Data shows more interest in European countries than in Asia, but it is safe to say that the sport still attracts a very large group of fans there.
In the esports community the data shows that fans follow a diverse selection of games. In Germany, most esports fans follow Call of Duty while League of Legends and Counter-Strike, two of the most important esports titles, did not make the top-3 ranking. Still, both these games have their fair share of fans in almost all of the countries analyzed.
Japanese esports fans are different from those in other countries in that they favor fighting games such as Super Smash Bros. and Street Fighter. League of Legends and Counter-Strike are nowhere to be found in top rankings for Japan and the only real similarity to other markets is Call of Duty.
This data finds that while fan preferences for esports are somewhat localized, it is not as dramatic a distinction as some initially theorized. Heavy localization undoubtedly occurs for certain markets, but it is important for the industry to understand that esports, just like traditional sports, is a whole ecosystem consisting of several very different games. While League of Legends and Counter-Strike play a vital part in the esports ecosystem of many countries around the globe from a viewership perspective, there is clear opportunity for engaging and growing fan bases for a broad spectrum of games.