More than 70 million people watched esports in 2013

Could League of Legends be the No

Could League of Legends be the No. 2 sport in America?

More than 70 million people worldwide tuned in to esports in 2013, according to a pair of recently released studies. That’s double the years previous mark, and that rapid growth is turning some games into viewing spectacles that rival the biggest sports in the world.

More people tuned in to the League of Legends Season 3 World Championship than the World Series last year, according to a report by SuperData Research. The 32 million League viewers also topped the marks of Game 7 of the NBA Finals and the BCS National Championship Game.

And with the continued growth on the horizon, could the Super Bowl be next?

That may sound absurd, but the separate reports from SuperData and NewZoo make it sound possible—though it’s important to note that their numbers look at global esports viewership, not national.

The firms describe how esports’ is driving the success of the companies investing in it, like Riot Games, Wargaming, and Valve. 

The success of esports and free-to-play games like League of LegendsDota 2, and World of Tanks are linked, according to NewZoo.

“[Esports] gives gamers the opportunity to spend even more time on their favourite game franchise and ultimately… money,” NewZoo’s CEO Peter Warman said. The time spent in a game is becoming as important of a success indicator as money spent, he added.

“Esports is a key marketing vehicle and revenue driver for online game publishers,” the SuperData brief states. “Companies like Riot Games, Wargaming, Valve and Ubisoft are all placing bets on competitive gaming in 2014.”

Big companies like Coca-Cola and Intel are also joining the fray, targeting the juicy demographics present in esports viewership.

Some statistics of note:

– Esports viewership has doubled each of the past three years to a high mark of 71.5 million in 2013, with 31.4 million of those viewers in the United States. Prize money has followed suit, with $25 million awarded last year alone, almost double 2012’s number.

– One quarter of esports viewers attend live events and watch every day. The average viewers tunes in for 2.2 hour sessions 19 times a month.

– Those esports fans are also high priority targets for game developers and marketers. 59 percent belong to the important 21 to 35 age demographic, and they are big spenders to boot: 22 percent of esports enthusiasts drop top dollar on games, compared to only 8 percent for all gamers.

It’s no wonder developers and marketers are targeting esports and their young, affluent fans.

“Esports is an integral part of our our strategy,” said Andrei Yarantsu, VP of Publishing at Wargaming, developer of World of Tanks, which had over 200,000 gamers participate in its tournaments. “We invested $8M dollar in 2013 and expect to invest over $10M this year.”

SuperData expects Wargaming and other heavy esports investors, like Riot Games, to reap the rewards for their commitment. They estimate World of Tanks will see revenue rise from $475 million last year to $590 million in 2015, and that League of Legends monthly active users will grow from 52 million to 94 million over the same time frame.

H/T OnGamers | Screengrab via ESL TV/YouTube