Online gaming and eSports saw users peak in March, with Football Manager seeing record playing figures in the absence of live football, according to new research.

March saw a massive rise in people playing games during lockdown, with online platform Steam seeing a 22% spike in people playing their top 20 games in the past month when compared to figures from February.

Research by OLBG’s Gaming Habits study breaks down the data behind Steam’s top six games, studying their average player statistics at any one time in previous months when compared to March 2020, the rise and fall of the figures in those months and the peak number of players during that time – something which went through the roof in March.

Football Manager was one game in particular that saw a massive spike in people playing, with an average of 102,388 people playing across all versions of the popular management simulation game in March.

That represented a 43.8% increase on February, which saw an average of 71,186 people playing at any one time, meaning Steam experienced a rise of 31,202 playing just on Football Manager alone.

The was also a record high of 240,363 people playing across any of the Football Manager games at one point in March (almost twice the previous record which stood at 126,501 in November 2019) with Football Manager 20 smashing the previous best for a single game, with 189,230 users online at 5pm on Sunday, 30 March.

Users have dropped slightly in April – partly due to Sport Interactive’s offer of a free trial coming to an end – but there remain daily peaks of well over 100,000.

The popularity of eSports has almost never been higher, with Counter-Striker: Global Offensive posting record figures across any game on Steam for players online at once.

On Saturday, 18 April at 8pm, there were 1,305,714 players online to make it the biggest peak recorded by Steam.

These figures are matched by traffic to OLBG’s eSports betting tips page, which saw an increase of 943% along with a 146% rise in tips placed across all games on the site.

Across the three major games available to place tips on on the OLBG site, they saw the following rises in March from February:

League of Legends – 69%
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive – 151%
DOTA 2 – 245%
Other – 290%

For more detailed analysis and visual representations of the trends in online gaming, visit: https://www.olbg.com/blogs/growth-esports-popularity