Growth In Esports Popularity

Has the popularity of esports declined since rising during the pandemic? We examined average playing figures from some of the most popular games to find out

Growth In Esports Popularity

Gaming Habits April 2022 Update

Here at OLBG, we conducted research back in March 2020 to see how lockdown affected the popularity of Esports. Unsurprisingly, there were major spikes in the number of average players across the vast majority of popular games such as GTA V, Football Manager, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2. 

In fact, on our esports betting tips page alone, we saw a huge 943% spike in traffic back when restrictions were first introduced as regular sporting events were cancelled until further notice. 

Two years on, with lockdowns and restrictions now firmly in the rearview mirror, we decided to take another look at the stats to see if this growth had continued or if people had turned back to other forms of entertainment to occupy their spare time. 

If you are new to esports and want to learn more please check out the esports betting guide. As you can see from the graphic above, the general trends for all five games we analysed spiked in March 2020 and then subsequently declined after restrictions were eased or lifted. In some cases though, like Football Manager, the plateauing effect is clear to see.  

As you can see from the graphic above, the general trends for all five games we analysed spiked in March 2020 and then subsequently declined after restrictions were eased or lifted. In some cases though, like Football Manager, the plateauing effect is clear to see.  

In February 2022, the average number of players for the popular football simulation game was 71,686, which is remarkably close to the figure in February 2020 which was 71,186, highlighting the return to ‘normal’.  

Other games like Dota 2, which has remained incredibly popular despite being released back in 2012, actually had a fairly significant increase in average players when comparing the same months, boasting over 450,000 players in February 2022 compared to just under 406,000 in 2020. 

This was not the case for all games we analysed though, with PUBG: Battlegrounds suffering the biggest drop in average players, going from 417,812 prior to the pandemic, then experiencing a huge spike in players over the next year, peaking at 1,584,886 in April 2021 when restrictions were still in place. Since then, it has declined dramatically to a lowly figure of just 17,551 in February this year.  

The peak number of monthly players also told a very similar story for all five franchises we examined, with Football Manager again being an example of this. It went from 122,479 in February 2020 to 119,863 in the same month this year. 

Again Dota 2’s popularity has continued to stay strong, boasting consistent peak monthly playing figures throughout the last two years. A month before the first lockdown, it was at 663,812, rising as high as 801,121 in April that year. February this year saw a peak of 725,851, showing that its peaks from the pandemic have continued to remain long after restrictions have been fully lifted. 

PUBG: Battlegrounds, however, was the opposite of Dota 2 showing huge declines in the last two years. Figures from two years ago (before the pandemic) were just above 93,000 peak monthly players and that continued to rise, eventually reaching a high of 3,236,027 in April 2021. This year again saw a dramatic drop-off, with just 67,846 players in February 2022. 

While it is dependent on the individual games as to whether the spikes from the pandemic have decreased or remained strong, generally the popularity has returned to the ‘normal’ average monthly and peak monthly players.   


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