Esports Demographics in 2022: Analyzing Viewers, Players, and Opportunities for Growth

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Esports has exploded into the mainstream over the past decade, attracting millions of passionate viewers and participants around the globe. But who exactly makes up the esports demographic? With its origins in gaming culture, esports is often assumed to skew young and male – but the reality is more nuanced. As the esports industry matures, its demographic makeup is evolving as well.

In this in-depth look at esports demographics in 2022, we‘ll analyze key trends among esports viewers, players, and participants. We‘ll see how esports fans compare to traditional sports fans, break down demographics by top esports titles, and highlight opportunities for growth among currently underrepresented groups like women and older audiences. Let‘s dive in!

An Introduction to Esports

For those unfamiliar, esports involves professional video game competitions watched by legions of fans online and in sold-out arenas. Some of the most popular esports games include multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games like League of Legends, first-person shooter (FPS) games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and sports simulation games like FIFA.

The rapid rise of esports is nothing short of astonishing. According to market researcher Newzoo, the total esports audience reached 474 million people in 2021, a nearly 50% increase since 2019. This includes both dedicated esports enthusiasts as well as occasional viewers. Total esports revenues swelled to over $1 billion in 2021.

While esports may lack the centuries-long history of traditional sports, its momentum is undeniable. Next we‘ll analyze exactly who is tuning into competitive gaming action.

Esports Viewership Demographics

Early stereotypes painted the typical esports viewer as a young male slouched over a keyboard in his parent‘s basement. But as the industry enters the mainstream, its fans actually span a diverse array of ages, genders and nationalities. Let‘s break down some key esports viewership demographics.


The largest contingent of esports enthusiasts in 2021 (81%) were aged between 18 and 35 years old, according to Statista. Just 7% of this core esports audience was aged 36 to 50.

Meanwhile, Newzoo found the occasional esports viewer skewed slightly older in 2021, with a mean age of 31. Still, less than a quarter (22%) of the occasional audience was over 45 years old.

So while the dedicated esports fanbase does lean young, occasional older viewers help balance out the age demographics. As awareness spreads, esports has room to engage more middle-aged and senior audiences. The community and social elements around esports could hold strong appeal across ages.


In 2021, a full 71% of core esports viewers were male, per Statista. This aligns with long-running perceptions of esports as a male-dominated space.

However, 29% female viewership is still highly significant, showing how esports is drawing interest across genders. In addition, Newzoo found a more balanced gender split among occasional viewers, with 54% male and 46% female in 2021. This could indicate esports is breaking stereotypes and appealing to a wider spectrum of fans as it gains prominence.

Geographic Location

Esports enthusiasts span the globe, though Asia remains the leading region by far. According to Newzoo, the Asia-Pacific region accounted for 57% of global esports viewership in 2021. 24% came from North America, 16% from EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), 3% from Latin America.

Within Asia, China and South Korea boast particularly robust esports activity. Notably though, viewership is surging across emerging markets like Southeast Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Esports‘ digital format offers easy access for fans worldwide.

Next we‘ll see how esports viewership demographics diverge among some of the industry‘s top titles.

Viewership by Top Esports Games

While definitions vary, esports can encompass game genres from MOBAs to FPSs, fighting games, battle royales, sports simulators, and beyond. Viewership often differs significantly between titles. Let‘s analyze demographics among fans of leading esports games.

League of Legends

The world‘s most-watched esport is Riot Games‘ League of Legends. This strategic multiplayer battle arena game sees teams of 5 "champions" face off to destroy their opponent‘s "nexus".

In 2021, LoL commanded over 350 million hours watched on Twitch and YouTube, per Esports Charts. LoL‘s audience tends to skew younger, with 70% of fans aged 16-34, per LoL Fan Insights. The player base is over 80% male. LoL draws significant viewership from China, Europe and North America.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

This hugely popular FPS sees teams take out their opponents using guns, grenades and other weapons. CS:GO tallied over 215 million hours watched in 2021.

According to Esports Insider, over half of CS:GO viewers are aged 21 to 35. A full 90% are male. Europe accounts for 45% of the audience, followed by North America and South America.

Dota 2

This fantasy-themed MOBA title from Valve has teams of 5 "heroes" battling foes. In 2021, Dota 2 ranked third with nearly 200 million hours watched.

Per Statista, only 5% of core Dota 2 viewers are aged 45 and up. 79% are under 35 years old. A substantial 83% are male. Dota 2‘s viewer base skews toward Southeast Asia, China, Western Europe and North America.


This popular battle royale title upends typical shooter gameplay by adding crafting and construction elements.

Fortnite‘s audience trends far younger than other top esports. According to Statista, nearly 70% of core Fortnite esports viewers are aged 25 and under. A study by Interpret found the average Fortnite player age is just 24 years old. Over 80% are male.


EA Sports‘ soccer simulation FIFA games are a huge hit in the esports realm. The real-world athletes, teams and stadium settings likely help attract traditional sports fans.

According to FIFA themselves, 38% of FIFA esports viewers are aged 25-34. Just 5% are under 18. A strong 15% are over 55, showing the game‘s multi-generational appeal. Viewership is overwhelmingly (90%) male. Fans are concentrated in Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.

This quick survey demonstrates the diversity across top esports titles. Games with different themes, complexity and skills attract their own distinct fanbases. Next we‘ll track how esports demographics have evolved over time.

Evolution of Esports Viewership Demographics

Esports viewership demographics have gradually shifted as the nascent industry matures. Let‘s analyze some key trends since esports first emerged.


In the early era of competitive gaming, esports spectators skewed very young. This was an offshoot of the initial video game industry catering to kids.

According to Interpret, between 2005 and 2015, the average esports viewer aged from 21 years old up to 28. As millennials who grew up gaming stayed loyal fans into adulthood, the audience naturally matured.

Today, many parents who game introduce their kids to esports. Interpret found the average age has now dropped back down to 26. Still, older generations are increasingly giving esports a look. An ESPN study found 15% of US esports fans were over 55 – a share expected to rise.


Women have always faced exclusion in gaming culture. Early on, nearly all esports viewers were male.

Interpret found the female esports audience share doubled from 15% to 30% between 2005 and 2015. Though slower growth followed, women now make up between 25-30% of all esports viewers.

High profile initiatives like scholarhips, tournaments and support groups are moving the needle on inclusion. There remains huge potential to embrace an underserved demographic.

Expanding Esports Viewership

Esports leagues, platforms, sponsors and publishers should continue efforts to expand viewership beyond current demographics. Here are some key areas of opportunity:

  • Women: Only 1 in 4 esports viewers is female currently. Tailored marketing, improving toxic culture, and growing female player ranks could achieve more gender balance.

  • Older: With most fans under 35, esports is missing out on huge older demographics. Showcasing games that emphasize strategy over mechanics could broaden appeal.

  • Mobile: Over 70% of esports viewership is on mobile, per Interpret. Developing mobile esports experiences and tournaments can engage massive smartphone-first audiences, especially in emerging markets.

  • Inclusive: There is a need to combat racism, homophobia and other toxicity that has plagued gaming and esports. Prioritizing diversity and creating safe, welcoming spaces for all will help the industry thrive.

There are also opportunities to convert more of the 500 million+ occasional viewers into dedicated fans who attend live events and engage online. Snapshot profiles of esports viewers by game genre, gaming platform, geographic market and more can help organizers target and onboard these viewers.

Now let‘s shift our focus to those actually playing competitive esports – the pros, aspiring pros, and collegiate participants shaking up the industry.

Esports Players Demographics

Esports may have started as a recreational activity, but gaming has evolved into a viable career path for talented players around the world. Over 8,000 players have earned money competing professionally, per Let‘s analyze the key demographics for esports players.


Unsurprisingly, professional esports players tend to be young, a function of players‘ response time peaking in their 20s. According to Key Numbers, over 80% of pro esports players are under the age of 30. Some retire before age 30 due to declining skills.

Still, a handful of players have remained competitive into their 30s. Some pros transition to coaching roles later in their career, sharing hard-earned knowledge. The average age of retirement will likely increase as training and wellness practices mature.


Women face major barriers to entering the professional esports ranks. Female pro players made up just 5% of over 5,000 participants in 100 esports events, per Esportsearnings.

In some regions, exclusively women‘s teams and tournaments are helping drive up female representation and earnings for top talent like Katherine "Mystic" Gunn in VALORANT. But men continue to massively outnumber women at the professional level.

Geographic Location

Asian countries like China, South Korea and Japan boast the highest number of professional esports players by far. Esportsearnings shows China with nearly 5,000 pro players, compared to around 4,000 for the US.

South Korea‘s early investment in esports infrastructure gave them a head start. The US college system is now helping groom new pro prospects. But most pro esports players still hail from Asia, especially for strategy-driven esports titles.

In the collegiate realm, esports is booming among young US students. Over 170 colleges offer scholarships for varsity esports, according to Be Recruited, fueling a new talent pipeline. Let‘s analyze this trend next.

Collegiate Esports Demographics

A 2017 study by the National Association of Collegiate Esports found over 60% of university students were aware of esports. With recognition growing, varsity esports programs are surging. There are now over 200 official collegiate esports programs in the US, reports ESPN.

The National Association of Collegiate Esports estimates 3,000 students are receiving financial aid to competitively game for their college. Let‘s break down key traits of these student-athletes.


Of freshmen offered esports scholarships in 2021, an estimated 80% were male and 20% female, per Be Recruited. While these groups aren‘t evenly split, women make up a larger share of collegiate players than professional ones.

Supporting women‘s participation in lower divisions has a better chance of driving female pros. Maryville University, Harrisburg University and others now field all-women‘s teams alongside co-ed ones.

Games Played

The 5 most popular titles for collegiate esports are League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket League, Hearthstone and Super Smash Bros, reports CNBC. Games that emphasize strategy over quick reaction times open doors for more students.

Overall, MOBAs like League of Legends and Dota 2 dominate collegiate play, accounting for nearly 40% of participants according to a National Association of Collegiate Esports survey. These team strategy games perfectly suit competitive campus clubs.

Future Opportunities

Colleges carry major potential for expanding esports diversity. Lower barriers to entry give students broader access to tech, training and infrastructure needed to go pro after graduation.

Schools still need to increase outreach to women, students of color, LGBTQ students and other marginalized groups. There is also huge potential in supporting players with disabilities through more accessible games and tools.

The academic links provide avenues for advancing the esports industry through instructional programs, research, incubators and more. Campus esports growth seems limitless.

Esports Betting Shapes Future Viewership

A relatively new trend that promises to dramatically reshape viewership demographics is esports betting. Wagering on professional video game matches with real money is projected to reach nearly $14 billion by 2027, according to SharpAlpha Advisors.

Newzoo found 37% of US esports viewers already participate in esports betting. This share will likely grow as betting expands to more regions and esports titles. Sites like Unikrn that are purpose-built for esports may have an edge over traditional bookmakers.

Younger audiences are especially drawn to betting. A 2020 study found over half of esports bettors are millennials. Combining friendly wagers with livestreams creates an interactive viewing experience attractive to younger demographics.

But as with traditional sports betting, there are responsible gambling concerns to address. Minors need protection and fans should bet within reasonable limits. Transparency and oversight will be critical as esports betting takes off.

The Future of Esports Demographics

Esports has already progressed light years beyond its roots to become a truly global phenomenon engaging hundreds of millions of fans in 2022. Where will key esports demographics trend in the future?

Viewership will likely continue to spread across ages, genders, and geographic regions as awareness grows. Top players and teams will remain in their 20s, but collegiate leagues could expand the pro player pipeline. We‘ll see more diversity across fans and competitors, but progress remains.

One thing is certain: esports stakeholders will continue leveraging rich viewership data profiles to convert casual fans into lifelong ones. 2022 and beyond promises to take esports engagement to even greater heights.


Written by Alexis Kestler

A female web designer and programmer - Now is a 36-year IT professional with over 15 years of experience living in NorCal. I enjoy keeping my feet wet in the world of technology through reading, working, and researching topics that pique my interest.