The times, they are a changing.
In partnership with the Washington Post, the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion conducted two surveys on American attitudes about sports and found that young Americans find themselves enjoying eSports as much as American Football.
For those age 14 to 21, e-sports are about as big as football, according to results of a UMass Lowell-Washington Post poll released today. Forty percent of that age group said they are football fans while 38 percent count themselves among fans of e-sports.
“The popularity of e-sports and online gaming among American teens and young adults as both a recreational activity that you participate in or can also watch reveals a shifting landscape for what constitutes a sport in American life. It is absolutely telling that the fan base for e-sports is just as large as the fan base for professional football among Americans ages 14 to 21,” said Prof. Joshua Dyck, co-director of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion, who wrote and analyzed the poll with The Post. “The reasons teens and young adults give for participating in e-sports/online gaming mirror many of those given in our survey of adults 18 and older about why they watch live sports.”
The popularity of e-sports is even higher among young men: 89 percent of male teens and young adults said they have either played online video games, participated in a competition and/or watched others playing games online in the last year. Only about one in 10 males in that age group have had no interaction with online gaming in the last 12 months. Among females in that age group, 56 percent have either played or watched a video game over the same timeframe. By comparison, only 18 percent of American adults 18 and older reported having played an online video game with multiple players or participating in a video game competition in the preceding 12 months and just 16 percent reported watching video gaming online via Twitch, YouTube or other platforms.
Asked whether they would rather spend a free hour of time watching a live e-sports competition or watching a live sporting event, such as football or the Olympics, the live sporting event won, but the younger the respondent, the more likely they were to choose e-sports. Seventy-eight percent of all adults who play or watch video games preferred the live sporting event to 15 percent for e-sports. But among teens and young adults, 35 percent said they would prefer watching a live e-sports event and that option was even more popular (41 percent) with 14- to 17-year-olds.
eSports, the Future
Practically speaking, this is the type of data gaming companies are seeing as well — and why we are seeing some of the more traditional single player modes like Franchise mode being skipped over on the feature improvements depth chart some years in lieu of creating more robust online/esport oriented gaming options within sports games. That trend likely isn’t going to reverse and may intensify as we move forward, as it seems the data points towards the next generation of gamers beginning to arise within the marketplace loving the online competition and watching others compete as well.