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gamingleagueThe popularity of electronic sports — or, eSports for short — is somewhat astounding, and new data from SuperData Research proves it.

SuperData, a digital games market intelligence company, conducted a study of the eSports industry and found that more than 71 million people watch competitive gaming worldwide — an eight-fold increase from four years ago — with half of those coming from the U.S.

In fact, more people are watching people play video games than major U.S. sporting events. An incredible 32 million people watched the League of Legends Season 3 World Championship this past October and 18,000 more packed a sold-out Staples Center in Los Angeles to watch it live.

Check out this graph from SuperData:

esports12The business of eSports is also growing quickly. Total prize money at video game competitions has ballooned by 350 percent over the past four years to $25 million. Brands like Intel and Coca-Cola are now using eSports as a way to connect with younger males.

Teams from Google (left) and Amazon duked it out at the RedBull headquarters for the 2013 League of Legends finals hosted by the After Hours Gaming League.

In terms of demographics, the study found that 70 percent of eSports enthusiasts in the U.S. are male, and a majority are in the 21-to-35 age range.

Those that watch video games are also dedicated: An average eSports viewing session lasts 2.2 hours, and viewers watch eSports 19 times per month, on average.

Even the U.S. government now recognizes eSports players as professional athletes and last year began issuing visas to foreign competitors traveling to the States to play.

SuperData notes that competitive gaming has been around for more than three decades, beginning with broadcasted Starcade arcade competitions back in the 80s. But with the advent of organizations like Major League Gaming and companies like, the popularity of eSports is rising rapidly as of late.

Check out the full report here.

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