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How Data Science Shapes the eSports Industry

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Sports Evolution

The definition of “sports” has shifted throughout history, constantly evolving to suit modern tastes. Ancient Greeks considered chariot-racing a sport; Ancient Romans, gladiator fights. Over time, these sports became outdated; their equipment antiquated; their purpose (to train athletes for horseback and hand-to-hand combat) obsolete. 

The topic of this blog post is a major sports evolution on the horizon and approaching—fast. Here’s a hint: What has 3.24 billion players worldwide and draws hundreds of billions in revenue annually? Video games. 

The Emergence of eSports

In 2021, the International Olympic Committee announced the first “Olympic Virtual Series,” featuring five gaming events to be staged before the 2022 Summer Olympics. This development may come as a surprise to fans of traditional, physical sports. However, physicality has never been sports' defining characteristic. Consider sharpshooting, for example, or equestrian events. They value fine motor skills over strength, fitness, and agility. Competitive video games, or “eSports,” are no different.

Most video games aren’t competitive, of course. But technological advancements and explosive popularity have made some video games exceptions to the rule. In 2022, 180 million people played League of Legends. Many traditional sports are far less competitive: for example, tennis, with its player base of only 87 million.

The eSports Economy

Several hundred professionals make a living by playing eSports. Additionally, thousands of hobbyists and part-timers earn an income from eSports via streaming platforms, competitions, and corporate sponsorships. Thanks to their combined efforts, the eSports industry benefits from a diverse array of stakeholders: video game developers, players, streaming platforms, advertisers, viewers, and more.

eSports analytics firm Newzoo reports that “eSports is set to generate nearly $1.38 billion in revenues by the end of 2022.” Moreover, it estimates that “global eSports revenues will exceed $1.86 billion by 2025, representing a healthy CAGR of +13.4 percent.” The gaming industry at large is set to exceed $200 billion in revenue in 2022.

Data Science in the eSports Industry

Inextricably linked to the eSports industry’s future are the technologies that make competitive video games possible. Compare League of Legends to Pong, the first commercial video game. The former supports over 700,000 concurrent players, on average. The latter? Just two. League is leagues ahead of Pong when it comes to popularity, watchability, and really, everything else. That’s all thanks to technological advancement, most notably in a cutting-edge field that has utterly transformed video games  since Pong’s release: data science.

Data science is the extraction and application of valuable insights from electronic information (a.k.a. “data”). It’s also the most crucial plank in the developmental bridge, so to speak, from early video games to eSports. Discussing every application of data science in eSports would take a much longer blog post, so we'll summarize. Data science has revolutionized eSports by helping to...

  • Simulate complex, realistic environments and characters for eSports games
  • Generate live statistics and highlights for eSports streaming platforms
  • Recommend targeted, sponsored content to eSports viewers

Looking to the Future

Early investors have pounced on eSports as an emerging market. Brands such as Red Bull, Louis Vuitton, and Intel sponsor popular eSports players, run commercials during eSports competitions, and releas eSports-themed merchandise. Some even partner directly with eSports organizations. In 2019,  appraisers valued three such organizations above $100 million: Cloud9, Team Liquid, and TSM.

What's more, even greater investment is pouring into the technology behind eSports. You probably interact with it daily. Online shopping, banking, advertising, and navigation are only a few of the modern conveniences powered by data science. The gaming industry is far from alone in using and fueling data science development to its advantage. Worldwide, virtually every industry is rushing to follow suit. Artificial intelligence and data analytics start-ups received more than $1.1 billion in funding in 2021: a year-over-year growth rate of 32.5 percent. The data science platform market is set to balloon by $68 billion between 2021 and 2026. McKinsey expects that data science will revolutionize workflow in early-adopter organizations by 2025. The bottom line: data science is a growing field with explosive potential, and nobody wants to be left behind.

About Synaptiq

Synaptiq is an artificial intelligence/data consulting firm committed to  “human-first” innovation. Our collaborative, client-inclusive approach shapes technology for people, even when that means defying the status quo. In the words of everyone who works with us, “We believe solving serious challenges, making a real impact, and saving lives is worth every waking moment of our day.” Learn more through our past projects or blog.

If you have a problem to solve, a question to ask, or a strategy to refine, reach out: 


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