Following the path paved by fantasy sports recorded a massive spike in popularity and revenue in the last decade. An activity with roots all the way back into the 1960s’ that was also referred to as “rotisserie sports.” Steadily but surely has found the path towards becoming a multi-billion global industry, with most of it taking center stage in Japan. Don’t worry.
We won’t bore you with fantasy football’s history (not that you can actually pinpoint anything regarding where it first started). Instead, we’re going to look at today’s trends, main markets and analyze where the industry is heading. But first, for our readers that make first contact with fantasy sports, let’s start with some basic information on the phenomenon.
Fantasy Sports 101
Fantasy sports are a type of game that is mostly played online and require participants to put together virtual teams composed of real players from certain professional sports. If you’ve followed EURO 2020 closely and downloaded the UEFA app, you probably noticed the possibility of putting together a team using any player in the tournament. Then, as the matches unfolded, you accumulated points or various achievements corresponding to the real-life performance of said players.
Fantasy football is the most popular, just like the real game, with thousands of leagues to compete in. The fantasy football leagues often replicate the official leagues in various jurisdictions. So, you have Fantasy Premier League, Fantasy La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, and the list goes on. However, players can also build customized leagues with countless possibilities.
Besides football, fantasy sports enthusiasts can choose from any other known sport on the planet. The amazing diversity offered by fantasy sports is one of the essential reasons for its current popularity and growth. Also, since it became a worldwide phenomenon, various fantasy sports platforms have started to develop. Currently, the most prominent are CBS, DraftKings, FanDuel, Yahoo, and ESPN.
The United States – Cornerstone for Fantasy Sports’ Current Status
While we promised we wouldn’t go into topics like history and origins, one can’t properly understand the present and future without looking at the past as well. The United States is where everything started, and for an extended period of time, they did all the hard work. To give you an idea of how much the US contributed to fantasy sports‘ current status and growth, the country jumped from a little over 8 million players to almost 16 million between 2012 and 2017.
It goes without saying that the US is still an essential player in the fantasy sports industry, especially considering the pace with which a proper framework and legislation for online gambling is adopted in several states. Also, the United Stated will most likely account for an important chunk of the estimated 9.5% annual growth rate. After all, North America was the largest region in the industry for 2020. However, the APAC (Asia-Pacific) region seems to be taking over the baton, and that’s also what the research and markets report suggests.
Japan – the New Force in Fantasy Sports
Even though Japan arrived later to the party and still needs to sort out the legislation surrounding online gambling, the country shows a lot of promise. If you’re wondering why we mentioned online gambling when discussing fantasy sports, you should know that Japan (like many other countries) makes no difference between sports betting at online bookmakers and fantasy sports. However, clear signs came from Tokyo regarding a more relaxed stance regarding fantasy sports over the last several years. And it’s no wonder the Japanese, as well as the entire Asia and Pacific region, are beginning to dominate the fantasy sports industry. They occupy the third position in the top countries with the most significant gaming revenue, after China and the US.
Furthermore, the country’s high percentage of smartphone usage is another crucial factor that makes Japan seem like a strong candidate to represent the new force in fantasy sports. Almost 80% of the population used a smartphone in 2020, and the estimation for 2026 sits at 94%. On top of all this, artificial intelligence is seen as a key trend that gains popularity in fantasy sports. Factor in that Japan is one of the leading countries when it comes to AI adoption, and you get the perfect recipe.
An Estimated Growth to $38.60 Billion in 2025
With new forces joining the fantasy sports market and the pioneers continuing to grow constantly, the future looks bright for this industry. The market value for 2021 is projected to reach $22.31 billion, from $20.36 billion in 2020. However, the great news comes from longer-term predictions. Fueled by the increasing youth population, constant development of digital infrastructure, affordable smartphones availability, and increasing players’ popularity, fantasy sports is expected to reach $38.60 billion by 2025.