Earlier today one of the world's largest accounting and consultancy firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers, published a report into the state of esports. But the more you read, the odder the report gets.
The report's called "The burgeoning evolution of esports: From the fringes to front and center". It's a look into the demographics and behaviours of ordinary guys and girls who play and follow esports on Twitch, social media, forums, and so on.
The release on their website is pretty eye-catching. There's some smooth GIFs and nice graphics breaking down the ages, amount users spend, the gender skew and more.
It all sounds nice — but then you open the report and see that it was based off a survey with 757 people. According to those figures, the respondents were 56% male, 44% female, with the 18-24 age bracket the second smallest group (19%) in the survey.
From there PwC's findings start to get a little strange. Out of their 757 sample size, only 373 had any affiliation or participation with esports whatsoever. From that group, they asked them what games they played, what they watched, how often they did each, and other bits and pieces.
According to PwC, FPS games are the most watched genre in esports regardless of how old you are, what type of games you like, or your gender.
PwC's definition of esports is "organised video game competitions" involving various games, including Call of Duty, League of Legends, WoW, and so on. There are some important distinctions not outlined: it's not said whether games like World of Tanks fall under their definition of MMO's; it doesn't outline whether games like Destiny qualify as an MMO, FPS, or both; and strategy games aren't defined at all.
But the element about FPS being the most watched genre is curious, given that it's totally at odds with a Newzoo report earlier this month. Using their Twitch Tracker, the firm found that 21.3% of all hours on Twitch in July-December 2015 was related to esports, with MOBAs accounting for 58% of all esports hours watched.
Perhaps the biggest finding was that the games that generated the most hours on Twitch were League of Legends, Dota 2, CS:GO, Hearthstone and StarCraft 2 — further raising questions about the thoroughness of PwC's analysis. Even Twitch's own retrospective for 2015 only found one FPS in their top 5 games (CS:GO).
The top 10 wasn't filled with shooters either: Hearthstone was the 4th most watched game on Twitch last year, Minecraft came in 5th, World of Tanks was 8th, WoW 9th and FIFA 15 10th.
Another bone of contention with the PwC report is one of their implications the authors drew:
eSports fandom and loyalty are heavily tied to the content itself, unlike traditional sports where fans tend to follow specific teams or players. What game is being played vs. who is playing. Consider this notion when marketing or sponsoring tournaments.
It's a questionable implication when you consider the reality of the esports landscape. There's streamers who make a living playing all manner of games, even if they're not the most skilled or talented at their favourite titles. Players in CS:GO are making more money from sticker sales and digital autographs at major tournaments than they do in prize money. Players have been marketing their personalities through streams for years — and it's proving a more reliable source of income than salaries and sponsorships.
PwC's look into the world of esports is telling, however. It's a further sign of just how seriously the corporate world is looking at esports as a driver of growth and revenue within gaming — but hopefully future insights will be a little more exhaustive than a simple questionnaire.