Esports viewership breakdown with Esports Charts: Free Fire breaks record in May 2021

Every month ESI, in collaboration with Esports Charts, delves into the world of esports viewership to highlight what audiences are currently watching, along with other emerging trends in the industry.

May’s viewership figures are headlined by a record-breaking accomplishment, mobile esports’ continued dominance, and the successful LAN debut of VALORANT’s Champions Tour Masters. Moreover, the stacked month also saw League of Legends air its Mid Season Invitational and the European Masters.

Esports Viewership Breakdown

Free Fire World Series breaks esports viewership record

One of the major talking points in May was the incredible success of the Free Fire World Series (FFWS) 2021 Singapore. With a peak viewership of over 5.4m, the mobile title became the most viewed esports tournament (excluding Chinese viewers). 

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The previous record-holder was the 2019 League of Legends World Championship which garnered 3.9m peak viewers.

FFWS 2021 not only impressed in terms of peak viewership; the competition also recorded an average concurrent viewership of over 2m. In addition, the title’s Portuguese-language platforms spiked at over 1m peak viewers.

Free Fire tops the May 2021 viewership chart
Image credit: Esports Charts

What’s perhaps even more impressive is the mobile title’s trajectory. FFWS 2019 Rio, the title’s previous world series event, recorded a peak viewership of 2m. According to Esports Charts, this year’s event increased by 143 percent, in terms of hours watched, with a 168 percent rise in peak viewers. 

Riot Games records viewership increases for MSI and VCT Masters

Following the conclusion of Riot Games’s Spring Split League of Legends competitions and the publisher’s VALORANT qualifiers, all eyes were on two events — MSI 2021 and VALORANT Champions Tour Masters Stage 2 in Reykjavík. It’s safe to say that both events were a success from a viewership standpoint. 

Starting with MSI, the international event returned after a one-year hiatus as an offline event in Reykjavík, Iceland with a new format. Overall, the competition recorded an average concurrent viewership of 711,465 and garnered a peak audience of 1.83m, which was hit during the grand final matchup between RNG and DWG KIA.

Despite only finishing second in Esports Charts’s viewership table, the competition has seen significant growth from its 2019 edition. MSI 2019 recorded an average viewership of 537,619 and a peak viewership of 1.7m. Moreover, MSI 2021 had a 40.9 percent increase in hours watched from its previous edition (61.18m compared to 2019’s 43.41m).

One factor for MSI’s viewership increase could be the growth of Portuguese-language platforms with the competition’s peak viewership increasing from 98,907 in 2019 to 389,043.

The VCT Masters was the highest viewed event for English-speaking viewers
Image credit: Esports Charts

Despite not being featured in the top five overall peak viewership table, Riot Games’s second VALORANT Masters event topped the table in terms of English-speaking viewers (692,106).

The allure of being VALORANT’s first international LAN event certainly was a factor in the viewership increase, with the competition’s finals between Sentinels and Fnatic garnering a peak viewership of over 1m. In addition the event recorded an average viewership of 488,276 across its 52-hour air time.

In total, VCT Masters Reykjavík recorded 25.2m hours watched. Community casters, which includes Twitch streamers like Shroud, made up 56.2 percent of that figure with the championship’s official twitch channel only accounting for approximately 16 percent, according to Esports Charts.

It’s hard to compare VCT Masters Reykjavík to the inaugural Masters event due to the fact that the prior edition was to crown regional winners. However, it certainly seems that the shooter is garnering a fanbase quickly. It’ll be interesting to see if this momentum continues when Stage 3 Masters kicks off in Berlin later this year.

Mobile Legends and PUBG Mobile remain prominent

Coming in at a respectable third and fourth place in the peak viewership chart is MPL ID Season 7 and MPL PH Season 7, which recorded figures of 1.83m and 1.41m respectively. 

Aside from the M2 World Championships, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang’s premier international event, MPL’s Indonesian league has been the title’s most popular competition. As a result, it’s no surprise to see the title be featured on this list. However, the year-on-year trajectory of the mobile title’s Philippines event showcases Mobile Legends’s esports development across other regions.

Viewership figures from each edition of the MPL PH
Image credit: Esports Charts

According to Esports Charts, at the end of MPL PH Season 3 on May 26th the tournament peaked at 85,688. Just over two years later, MPL PH Season 7 garnered a peak viewership of 1.41m, with over 761,000 watching on Facebook. 

Rounding out the top five, in terms of peak viewership, is PUBG Mobile’s Pro League Season 3 2021 Southeast Asia Finals. The event recorded a peak viewership of 1.11m, which is the title’s third-highest tournament figure behind PUBG Mobile World League 2020 East (1.15m) and the Global Championship Season 0 (3.8m), per Esports Charts. 

Honourable mentions

After delving into the viewership of specific Twitch channels, there are certainly some honourable mentions that should be credited. In particular, Dreamhack Masters, the French European Masters channel, and Shroud. 

Twirtch stream channel viewership for May 2021
Image credit: Esports Charts

Starting with the Twitch streamer, Shroud topped the list of highest peak viewership of an esports channel on the platform when he was co-streaming the recent VCT Masters event. His peak viewership figure of 340,617 beat official tournament channels for Riot Games’s MSI 2021 (both the ‘lck_korea’ and ‘riotgames’ official accounts), whilst also garnering a better peak viewership than Rainbow Six Siege’s Six Invitational 2021 (306,494).

Another channel that peaks a lot of interest is optlol_, which is the French-language channel for the LFL and European Masters. Given the LFL’s noted rise in viewership, it’s no surprise to see the channel contribute heavily to League of Legends’s biggest European tier-two event. Recording a peak viewership of 300,863 for the finals between French side Karmine Corp and British organisation BT EXCEL is even more impressive when considering that the entire event’s peak figure is 377,531 for the same match-up.

Finally, despite only recording a peak viewership of 551,558, DreamHack Masters Spring 2021 was the most popular esports tournament for Russian-speaking viewers in terms of peak viewership. The event recorded a peak Russian-speaking viewership of 245,105, with 234,898 coming directly from its official Russian twitch channel.

A notable tournament perhaps making its way into the top five for Russian viewers is the Free Fire World Series 2021 Singapore which peaked at 66,028. 

Russian viewership for May 2021
Image credit: Esports Charts

What to look forward to in June 2021

It’s midway through June and already there have been some impressive viewership figures being announced, such as Mobile Legends: Bang Bang’s Southeast Asia Cup 2021 peaking at over 2m viewers.

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Moreover, with Riot Games’s League of Legends Summer Splits underway all over the world, it’s possible that these events will make it into the June top five. Moreover, where will events such as Dota 2’s AniMajor and the BLAST Premier Spring 2021 Finals finish in terms of viewership figures?

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