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Let's Play! - The European esports report

Growing popularity in Belgium bodes well for the future

While Belgium is considered to be a developing esports market rather than a frontrunner in the European landscape, the interest in esports is growing. In our report, we explore the ins and outs of this dynamic industry and its potential.

Let's Play! 2021 - Global

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Let's Play! 2021 - Europe

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The esports landscape in Belgium has a lot of potential

With an esports exposure penetration rate of 27% of the Belgian population between 16 and 65 and 12% being regular consumers of esports content, Belgium is considered a to be a developing esports market rather than a frontrunner in the European esports landscape. However, Belgium has started to catch up during the COVID-19 pandemic with the esports penetration rate almost doubling during this challenging period, which raises positive expectations for the future.

A number of players are positioning themselves in a developing market

In contrast to the thriving Belgian gaming market, the Belgium esports market is yet to have the same type of international exposure. The Belgium gaming market involves over 5.25 million players representing a total of €662m in revenue for 2020, 25th globally.

The Belgian esports landscape is still in an early stage of development as few Belgian esports organizations have outgrown their startup phase. International platforms and tournaments are already well established, but limited scale in the domestic market is a challenge for home-grown Belgian companies. Kayzr is one example of a promising Belgian esports startup, aiming to connect players through local esports communities and tournaments on their platform – whilst trying to compete with international platforms.

Furthermore, the majority of esports activities is arising from adjacent ecosystem segments. Broadcasters and telco operators are active in the esports industry, aiming to connect with the “younger” esports community, as their traditional audience shifts into older demographics. However, telco’s and broadcasters’ main objective is not to generate additional revenue through esports, but more to get connected to that younger audience interested in esports. For example, Proximus, the largest Belgian telecom operator, organises esports tournaments & events, and broadcasts esports content.

Universities in Belgium also recognize the importance of the esports market. The Vrije Universiteit Brussel offers an expert class in esports management and the PIXL offers a postgraduate in esports business architecture.

Alongside Belgium’s developing start-up scene, the role of individual Belgian value creators such as Eefje "Sjokz" Depoortere has generated significant buzz and attraction around esports. Sjokz is an internationally renowned presenter of esports events crafting her success through presenting the European League of Legends Championship Series. Esports casters help to cement and grow gaming communities and Sjokz is among the most famous "esports export products" in Belgium. 

The Belgian esports audience “likes” advertising and has a “sports profile”

The Belgian esports audience has a pronounced "sports profile", as 70% of Belgian’s identify as sports fans. Moreover, sport simulation games are having the highest reach (45%), in contrast to other games, among the esports audience. Sports clubs in Belgium are harnessing the marketing potential of esports and, as in other countries, are establishing esports teams. For example, eClubBrugge – the esports team of Club Brugge – is a top performer in FIFA and Counter Strike: Global Offensive.

Esports’ revenue potential is currently limited as the Belgian esports market is in an early development stage. Nevertheless, there are clear signs of the growing potential in the Belgian market. Today, 19% of Belgians aged 16-65 have already made an esports-related purchase, more than consumers in Germany or the Netherlands. In this category, Spain and Poland are the frontrunners with 26% each.

The esports audience represents a very interesting target group for advertisers. Firstly, esports in Belgium mainly reaches younger generations with both men (67%) and women (32%) being well represented. Secondly, the esports audience is much more positive towards advertising and online shopping than the average consumer. For example, 53% of the esports audience finds advertising useful and informative. That is 24% more than the average consumer.

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered interest for esports in Belgium

During the COVID-19 pandemic, esports gained reach and awareness as 57% of the Belgian audience watched esports for the first time in 2020 or 2021. In addition, 46% of those who had already been exposed to esports before the outbreak of COVID-19 have increased their consumption even further during the pandemic. Only in Hungary, the Netherlands and the UK has the pandemic caused an even greater increase of “esports penetration”.

A further growth of the esports audience would, of course, be one of the main accelerators for a thriving esports sector in Belgium as it increases the overall attractiveness for all the partners, but there are other crucial levers, as well:The Belgian esports landscape could benefit from a nationwide structure to further streamline local tournaments and events.

  • The Belgian esports Federation could take up the leading role in this challenge. The Belgium Esports Federation’s (BESF) main mission is to manage, organise, promote and optimise development of esports in Belgium. This is set to be achieved through a non-exhaustive list of core goals such as, promoting and organising large scale esports competitions alongside developing relations with international esports stakeholders.
  • Start-ups in the esports scene need to aim at the international level, as the esports sector is per definition a cross-border market and the size of the Belgian market currently holds upward potential.
  • The esports industry and adjacent ecosystems (with telco players and companies active in iOT, event organization etc.) could benefit from each other's technology, investments, reach and visibility through partnerships.

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