IIDEA presents today the new Italian Esports Report

The new iteration of the report realized in collaboration with Nielsen shows an increase in the number of Italians following esports, now over 1.6 million


May 26, 2021 - IIDEA today presented the new Italian Esports Report, realized in collaboration with Nielsen. According to the research, in our country 475,000 people (slightly increased compared to the previous edition of the Report) follow esports events daily (avid fans), and this user base expands to about 1,620,000 people (+15%) if we also consider those who claim to follow an esports event several times a week (esports fans).

"The data collected in the new edition of the Italian Esports Report tell of a progressive consolidation of the esports phenomenon in Italy. The trend is growing in the major European markets, the data collected in Italy, however, reveal a local nuance that is particularly positive if we compare them with what is recorded in the world of sport, today in a time of degrowth” declared Marco Saletta, President of IIDEA. "In Italy today we recognize more and more the positive value of esports, with a growing number of people who recognize the positive elements of competitive gaming such as facilitating the learning of English, the development of relationships and problem-solving skills, the promotion of a spirit of healthy competition, as well as inclusiveness."

Who are the esports fans in Italy?

Esports fans in Italy are mainly men, with an average age of 27, a higher level of education and income than the average population. The presence of fans in the southern regions and islands is considerable (39%), a figure that goes up to a surprising 44% if we consider only avid fans. The passion for esports appears to be long-lasting for avid fans (34% follow them for at least three years) and is consolidating in the broader fanbase, which on average devotes 4.6 hours per week to this form of entertainment, with 62% of the fanbase stating that they devote between 2 and 7 hours per week to esports-related activities. The motivations that push fans to dedicate themselves to esports mainly concern the entertainment sphere (80%) and the community factor (64%): they play to spend time with friends with whom they share the same passion, to watch the best players trying to learn their tips and tricks, or simply to socialize.

94% of the fanbase declares to play games on consoles and on this platform the most played genre is sports. In second place are shooters, the genre most played on PC, followed by battle royale and MOBA. Finally, strategy and shooter titles are the most played on mobile. On average, an esports fan has an account on 3.3 platforms or services dedicated to the world of gaming (+18% compared to the previous survey): 69% has at least one account on a digital store, among which Playstation Store stands out (32%). 60% are subscribed to at least one subscription service where Prime Gaming (26%) is the most purchased. Finally, 56% are subscribed to at least one of the three console services that allow online gaming: PS Plus (35%), Nintendo Online (20%) and Xbox Live Gold (16%).

Esports as a form of entertainment

Esports fans claim to follow an average of 2.9 (+15% compared to the previous survey) esports genres and the favourites are sports titles, shooters, battle royales and MOBAs. To be underlined the exponential growth of mobile, which registers a +58% compared to the previous survey. The most used devices to follow esports are mainly computers (56%) and smartphones (52%), through which fans are also used to chat, but also listen to music, during their enjoyment.

If YouTube has seen a growth of interest in terms of fruition, with an increase in total hours watched and total views of 62% and 183%, the most used digital platform for the fruition of esports content is Twitch, where the hourly consumption (3.2 hours per week) is very similar to Netflix and Spotify. Moreover, Twitch results to be the preferred channel for watching live content while YouTube mainly for on-demand content; live streaming is driven by the high level of involvement it is able to offer to the fanbase. Twitch also stands out as the platform with the highest growth in terms of total hours watched (+166%) and air time (+55%) confirming itself as a dynamic platform both in terms of quantity of content offered and interest generated. In 2020 on Twitch, also the ratio total hours watched/air time has grown in fact, for each hour of streaming, there are 58 hours of viewing, against 34 of the previous year (+72%) and each contact spends an average of 23.2 minutes on the platform, against 20.7 minutes last year (+12%).

On the other hand, if we consider the share variations in terms of the most transmitted games among the first 10,000 streamers in Italy, the scenario that has undergone greater increases is confirmed to be that of Twitch (72% total share variation) compared to YouTube (46%), reconfirming a greater dynamism of the platform.

The most popular events and games

In 2020, Fortnite confirmed its position at the top of the ranking of the most streamed games, both on Twitch (15%) and YouTube (28%). Moreover, analyzing the scenario of the 10,000 streamers considered, we can highlight a greater heterogeneity of titles broadcast on Twitch than on YouTube. In fact, the top three games on Twitch cover 33% of the total share while the top three games on YouTube cover 45%. As far as the most played titles within the competitions are concerned, instead, the trend confirms the prevalence of League of Legends which is the protagonist of the first 7 tournaments out of the 10 most followed. The rest are instead covered by Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege.

In 2020 on Twitch, the international leagues (broadcast in Italy) recorded over 750 thousand hours watched more than in 2019, an increase of 26% where the 2020 League of Legends World Championship was the most watched event at the national level (event with the highest growth in absolute terms - over 300 thousand hours watched more than in 2019), with over one million hours watched. Next, League of Legends European Championship (LEC) 2020 both Summer and Spring Season with over half a million hours watched each (LEC - Summer Season was the event with the highest relative growth, +65% compared to 2019). Excluding the "big three", the best domestic event (PG Nationals League of Legends - Summer Season) has over 14% more hours watched than the best international event - broadcast on Italian channels (League of Legends Championship Series 2020 Summer Season).

Esports for companies

29% of esports fans declare a propensity to pay for subscriptions (TV or streaming) that guarantee access to content exclusively related to the esports world, preferably without advertising, a figure that reaches 39% among avid fans. The average monthly expenditure for esports-related items such as merchandising or passes for in-game events is around 40€ for esports fans, reaching 64€ among avid fans. The most purchased products are gaming accessories (66% esports fans and 73% avid fans) and merchandising items or apparel related to an esports game, team or league (34% esports fans and 46% avid fans). Online purchases are made via all major payment methods.

The overall attitude toward sponsorships, 74% for esports fans and 83% for avid fans, appears to be higher than either the traditional sports fanbase (55%) or the total population (60%). The esports fanbase also declares a high propensity towards brand sponsors, the products and services that are perceived as most suitable for sponsoring esport are those of the gaming industry (20%), followed by energy drinks (19%), snacks and snacks (18%) and Internet services (17%). Logos on uniforms and commercials are seen as the most appropriate to use during activities.

"This attitude is also shared by brands that have already invested in the ecosystem, which have approached the esports sector because it allows them to acquire positive and distinctive traits for their image such as dynamism, speed, avant-garde and internationality" - said Tommaso Mattei, Head of Consulting Europe, Mena & Mexico of Nielsen Sports & Entertainment - "This edition of the report shows how partnerships, events and experiences have given the players involved in the world of esports a competitive advantage in terms of perception of their brand compared to competitors who do not operate in this ecosystem, in particular through a connotation of excellence characterized by a strong degree of innovation. Esports is a unique platform because of its ability to offer brands a responsive target audience with which to experiment with new types of content that meet the current demand for interactivity and participation, through a consistent and current language."