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A brief look at the background
Poland could be regarded as one of the surprises in the gaming world. It is not the largest or most densely populated country in the world. It was behind the Iron Curtain until 1991, yet it has emerged as a powerhouse in video gaming. It is the world’s fourth-largest exporter of gaming titles, an international centre for e-sports and a pioneer in the tech and creativity which drive the industry. This has been an incredible success story for the country and would have been hard to imagine in 1981. Back then, General Wojciech Jaruzelski launched a military crackdown, and the economic outlook for the country and the rest of the Eastern bloc was far from rosy. Yet, somehow, despite repression, then liberalisation, followed by a rolling back of democratic rights, the online gaming industry in the country is vibrant.
CD Projekt Red
The single most significant name in Polish gaming is The Witcher which was created, designed and developed by CD Projekt Red. First launched on October 26th 2007, it has been one of the most successful gaming series ever. As of April 2022, The Witcher 3; Wild Hunt had sold over 40 million copies. Based on the novels of Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski, they have spawned multiple spin-offs, including a Netflix adaptation.
Plenty of players
It is more than just creating games that Poles are good at. They enjoy playing too. Sixty-seven per cent of internet users in Poland play video games. This has been up by seven per cent since 2014. The highest number was recorded in 2018, and it is unclear why it has fallen slightly, particularly as internet use was up during the Covid-19 pandemics and lockdowns. Like most other markets, in Poland, the demographic of gamers has changed significantly over the years. Once considered to be the preserve of teenage boys, the gaming community now has a much more equal gender balance. In addition, the age range of those playing is much broader.
Shift to mobile
The other significant shift in online gaming in the country is the devices on which people play. The console has declined in popularity, and most people elect to play smartphone and tablet games. PlayStation is the most popular console for fans of first-person shooter and sports games. Console gamers tend to spend more on their gaming, investing between 100 and 200 zloty on average on a console game. While mobile gaming could be heralded as an opportunity for gamers to be more friendly, the figures do not bear this out. Two-thirds of Polish mobile gamers played in single-player mode and always preferred to play alone.
A recently conducted survey of gamers in Poland said they had played online games in the last twelve months. A quarter of them declared that they had participated in online gambling the previous week. Online gambling in Poland is relatively restricted compared to more liberalized markets in the UK and other European countries. Online casinos in Poland are tightly restricted, and gamblers can only play on the state-owned lottery site Totalizator Sportowy. The rules around online sports betting are less restrictive.
eSports are popular in Poland, and this market is expected to grow. The status of these sports and competitions has been elevated in recent years, and many teams are competing across various leagues. The city of Katowice has firmly established itself as home to the world’s most popular non-major CS:GO tournament.
Watching the players
An average of 328 thousand viewers watched over 30 million hours of the IEM Katowice 2022 stages. The final attracted more than one million viewers and was the most popular match of the tournament. While most of the viewers watched English-language broadcasts, it also attracted many Polish and Vietnamese and Portuguese viewers. As a result, Polish language broadcasts were the fifth most popular. Undoubtedly, the Polish event is a central fixture in the eSports’ world calendar.