A breakdown of esports fan bases & communities

8th June 2018

If you’re not a gamer this might have passed you by, but live gaming events, tournaments where the top players of different games compete in arenas, are huge.

These events are then livestreamed to vast audiences of highly engaged esports fan communities that are growing by the minute: while hard to quantify, the total fanbase for these tournaments is believed to top 500 million.

(These events are usually referred to as esports, but in this post we will be calling them live gaming events: you’ll see why in a few paragraphs.)

To find out more about the people who are interested in watching these tournaments, we cast a wide net across the social and digital data, collecting 250,000 social media posts and their engagement relating to tournaments based around the following games: Counter-Strike (shooter game), Dota 2 and League of Legends (multi-player strategy game), NBA 2K (basketball), FIFA (soccer) and Madden (American Football).

Here is what we discovered about these tournaments’ audiences and their esports fan bases using Pulsar TRAC:


Different social platforms serve different purposes for esport fans


Conversations about live gaming events by esports fan communities take very different shapes on different platforms:

A breakdown of esports fan communities

  • YouTube is mostly used to see highlights and replays of live gaming events
  • Reddit is where much of the post-match analysis happens
  • Tumblr has a focus on bigger picture league performances
  • Instagram is full of live gaming memes and reactions
  • Yet overall, Twitter dominates, with 42% of the total conversations about live sports gaming happens, usually news.


There are esports gamers, and then there are esports sports gamers

One of the main discoveries while carrying out this research was that audiences for sports games are very different from those of “traditional” games.  

For one, sports games have much smaller fanbases interested in live gaming events. 93% of the conversations we observed were made up by traditional gamers talking about Counterstrike, Dota 2, and League of Legends. This audience follow gaming content, gather around platforms like Steam, and are interested in high gaming performance products like Razer.

People talking about Madden, Fifa, and NBA 2K tournaments made up only about 7% of the audience we analyzed, and they had their own DNA.
Sports games audiences turn out to be primarily concerned with the actual sports, rather than the gaming tournaments. And most members of the sports gaming community stick to one game, segregating themselves from the rest. This might also reflect a geographic segregation since we found that sports gaming audiences in the UK liked FIFA, while those in the US liked Madden and NBA 2K.

This sports games audience’s interests in live gaming does lie not with specific teams or competitions, unlike the fans of the ‘traditional’ games. Instead of tournaments, they follow individual Twitch streamers and games like Fortnite. Similarly, the influencers for this audience are often based in IRL sport: Fifa fans follow footballers and brands associated with football, NBA 2K fans follow basketball players.

Overall, conversations about sports-based live gaming tournaments are growing on social, but marginally, increasing by 4% since 2017, mirroring the growth of the industry itself.

Each game has its own community of esports fans

It seems like only a small number of each gaming community talks about different games. In this sense, gaming communities seem to form around titles and not branch out, whether we are talking about traditional games (Counterstrike, League of Legends), or sports games (FIFA, Madden).


esports fan communities


Fans of the sports games also are interested in the sports the games are based on. The games for them are part of a larger cultural buffet, not their sole interest. The hardcore fans within our sports esports search do not engage with casual fans online.

In short, sports fans play games, gamers don’t play sports.