Market researcher Newzoo has downgraded its esports revenue forecast for 2020 for the third time this year, saying revenues will likely hit $950.3 million.
The revision is only slightly down from the previous forecast of $973.9 million, which Newzoo predicted back in July. In April, it had revised its earlier estimate to $1.059 billion. And back in February, before the pandemic, the forecast was $1.1 billion for 2020 revenues.
The fact that the forecasts haven’t changed much each time is a pretty good clue as to why Newzoo has had to revise the estimates so many times this year, thanks to the unpredictability of the market as a result of the pandemic. The frequent changes seem a little farcical. On the other hand, it seems prudent for the company to evaluate the fast-changing market every quarter, as esports revenues can be affected dramatically if fans are able to meet in physical venues again or not.
In past years, physical venue revenues such as event ticket sales and merchandise were big parts of the revenues for esports. And while digital events produced huge spectator numbers, the revenues associated with the digital events were smaller.
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Now COVID-19 has flip-flopped everything, as physical events have been canceled and digital events are expanding to become more frequent as well as larger in scope. For instance, ESPN and Eleague on TBS have been broadcasting more esports events on TV.
At the recent Esports BAR online event, Newzoo head of esports Remer Rietkerk warned in a talk that the company was evaluating its forecasts again. In a statement, Newzoo said it is always reviewing its esports revenue forecasts to keep people up to speed, and it wants to keep everyone aware of changes as they happen.
“It is worth noting that the esports audience is not smaller (meaning there’s no decrease in demand) and the number of organizers is not fewer (so there’s no decrease in supply),” Newzoo said. “Instead, our adjusted revenue number is mostly a result of this year’s postponed and canceled esports events.”
Newzoo now believes that almost no in-person attendance at esports events will occur for the rest of the year, as COVID-19 continues to hinder large in-person gatherings.
The drop in live audience numbers has naturally decreased the forecast for ticket sales, but there is also a splash-over effect on merchandise. After all, many fans purchase merch as impulse buys at physical tournaments, driven by event excitement and fanfare.
Owing to the pandemic, merchandise and ticket sales have been revised downward from $76.2 million to $52.5 million. Newzoo said it based its revisions on past and near-future postponements, shifts to online, and canceled events.
The company said that Riot Games typically sees a 20% to 30% viewership decline between its spring and summer events. But this year, viewership for its League of Legends tournaments in Europe and North America saw viewership increases of 16.7% and 30%, respectively. But restrictions on international play are holding back some of the digital growth.
Newzoo said the negative impact on consumer-brand spending in the space could hurt the growth of both sponsorship and media-rights revenues in the future. Newzoo warned that if the pandemic continues into next year, the company would make relevant revisions again.
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