The legitimacy of esports is no longer a debate, with millions of dollars in prizes and major network broadcasts becoming commonplace.
However, the amount of people actually watching these events is still unclear. With massive numbers coming out for the esports events in July, some are questioning the accuracy of the data.
The Overwatch League had close to 1.5 million peak viewers for their playoffs, while some estimates had the PUBG Invitational at almost 40 million.
Duncan ‘Thorin’ Shields, an esports journalist and analyst for CS:GO, is among those that have doubts on the gaudy viewership numbers being released by publishers and organizers.
"Our esports event had 1.5 million peak viewers"— Thorin (@Thooorin) July 30, 2018
"Well ours had 20 million"
Outsider: "Any way for these figures to be verified?" pic.twitter.com/zB3KSaABS6
The Overwatch League Grand Finals peaked around 320,000 on Twitch, while the PUBG invitational was a little over 500,000. The disparity between the visible data during the events and the final numbers released seems to give legitimacy to Thorin's argument.
The viewer count Twitch displays for active watchers is usually significantly lower than the final numbers that are released, but major events are now available through multiple forms of media and some countries do not use Twitch.
Thorin also argues that publishers and PR departments try to legitimize their viewership numbers by pointing out the active player base of their game.
"Well ours are plausible cos our game has XX million monthly active accounts"— Thorin (@Thooorin) July 30, 2018
"Where is that verified and by whom?" pic.twitter.com/BjBE9gPf4E
Once again, a player base is something that is not possible to accurately verify since the active numbers are only available to the developers and publishers of the game.
Thorin is likely bringing up the viewership subject in response to the impressive numbers displayed by PUBG, which beat out other events by a significant margin.
Although esports viewership numbers are near-impossible to track reliably, the monetary value of pro organizations and increasingly mainstream access to events shows the popularity of video games as a competition is undoubtedly increasing.