How Does the Esports Market in the US Compare with South Korea?

The esports markets in South Korea and the United States (US) both feature prominently in the industry. In 2023, the US market was worth $871 million, and the market in South Korea was worth $274.42 million, placing the countries in first and third place in the global esports market, respectively.

The US market may have a higher value, but esports in South Korea have a stronger tradition. The country’s gaming culture has long existed, and there is an overall acceptance of esports in the community. In the US, the roots of esports have been put down more recently, but the industry is growing rapidly, as its value shows.

Looking more closely at the history of esports shows that South Korea was behind the birth of the industry and was the first country to recognize pro gamers as athletes. There is a strong emphasis on the competitive nature of gaming in the country, which includes an array of gaming cafes (PC bangs).

These cafes grew to prominence in the 1990s, and the push towards the esports market of today also happened towards the end of the decade. The push began with the release of Blizzard’s StarCraft: Brood War and continued when cable TV began broadcasting StarCraft matches. Not long after, the first esports leagues launched.

At the same time as competitive gaming was growing quickly in South Korea, it was also developing at a slightly slower pace in the US. The Nintendo World Championships took place in the country in 1990. Later in the decade, in 1994, Blockbuster Video arranged a video game world championship for Super Nintendo and Sega Megadrive.

Since the powerful South Korean professional gaming landscape was first formed, it’s been bolstered by high investment. Companies like Samsung and SK Telecom have put significant amounts of money into esports in the country. The government has also invested heavily, including the creation of the Busan Esports Arena.

Investment in esports is also strong in the US. It has attracted big names in sports, including Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, who both invested in aXiomatic Gaming.

The popularity of gaming in South Korea and its position in the US means there is no shortage of gifted gamers making a living in esports. The top South Korean player is Faker (Lee Sang-hyeok). The talented League of Legends (LOL) expert has earned over $1.4 million in prize money. His team, SK Telecom T1, won the 2023 LOL World Championship.

Compare this to the top players in the US. Dota 2 player Quinn (Quinn Callahan) won around $655,000 in 2023. Bugha (Kyle Giersdorf) is the most successful Fortnite player with winnings of more than $3.6 million.

Clearly, both the US and South Korean esports markets are flourishing. Esports began its journey to today’s globalization in South Korea, where it’s an integral part of the country’s culture. However, other countries, like the US, have now embraced the sport and have a flourishing industry. 

Haps Staff
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