Shipments of e-sports LCD monitors is expected to come in at 23.2 million units in 2022, with an annual growth rate of only 2%. Although branded and panel manufacturers are still actively promoting e-sports monitors, the Russian-Ukrainian war began to affect overall European consumer market demand starting in February 2022. After 2Q22, Europe was clearly hit hard by inflation and demand for consumer electronics products shrank sharply, steadily eroding e-sports LCD monitors sales. If sales in peak season 4Q22 are disappointing, gaming LCDs may not be able to maintain their growth momentum and will face the first year in which shipments declined.
Strictly control costs and inventory to maintain profitability and competitiveness
At present, there is no shortage of materials for e-sports LCD monitors and panel prices are falling month by month. Transit time was shortened by 2 to 3 weeks in 2Q22. In addition to sluggish consumer demand in Europe, product sales have slowed. Demand in 2H22 will also feel the heat of interest rate hikes in the United States. Therefore, branded manufacturers must clear their high-priced inventories in the shortest possible time and reduce the inventory levels of panels and whole devices as soon as possible to curb ballooning losses precipitated by cratering prices.
M-type development of e-sports products to increase product penetration
Looking forward to shipments of e-sports LCD monitors in 2023, e-sports merchandise is expected to remain a key product in continuous development at major branded manufacturers. However, overall market size will stagnate in 2023. Considering the limited market, manufacturers must raise the value of their products. E-sports products need M-type development if they wish to grow despite trends.
Firstly, is parity of low-end gaming products, such as narrowing the price gap between gaming products and standard products or reducing specifications and cost to replace prior 60Hz products with 100Hz products. Development of high-end e-sports products with higher resolution and higher refresh rates or new technologies such as QD-OLED, OLED, and Mini-LED should continue in order to improve and optimize said products and enhance the consumer experience. Hopefully, consumers will prioritize e-sports products when purchasing LCD monitors and its market share will continue to expand.
As the Russian-Ukrainian war directly affects Eastern Europe and, indeed, the entire European market, the supply of raw materials has destabilized and prices continued to soar, exacerbating inflation and pummeling the global economy. In addition, lockdowns and work suspensions caused by the recent pandemic outbreak in China and the government’s insistence on a dynamic zero-COVID policy may lead to complex problems such as reductions in factory production efficiency and logistical delays.TrendForce indicates, the uncertainty of current global political and economic circumstances have upset demand for three major display applications including TVs, LCD monitors, and notebooks, overshadowing 1H22 with pressure to correct expectations.
TV panel prices nearly bottomed out, driving demand in TV market remains challenging
In terms of the TV market, due to the deleterious effect of the Russian-Ukrainian war on inflation and assuming consumer budgets remain unchanged, expenditures on non-essential items will fall, deferred demand for TV products. In addition, due to issues in 2021 such as the shortage of cargo containers and port congestion, shipping costs spiked, indirectly inflating the production cost of TV sets. Before the pandemic, shipping costs on a 65-inch TV was US$9. Last year, this jumped to US$50-US$100, scaling with TV size. Even though current TV panel pricing has plunged by 30% to 40% compared to last year’s peak, the fact that freight costs are not expected to improve in 2022 will inevitably affect TV brand promotions and scale of stocking during the peak season of overseas markets in 2H22. Therefore, TrendForce revises downward its TV shipment forecast for 2022, from the original 217 million units to 215 million units, reducing annual growth rate to 2.4%.
Stay-at-home economy effect vanishes, war worries dampen demand, dragging on demand for LCD monitors
In terms of the LCD monitor market, the scale of the 2022 market will be smaller than that in 2021 as the overall market is no longer supported by strong demand from last year’s stay-at-home economy. In addition, relatively stable past demand originating from the European market ran headlong into the Russian-Ukrainian war at the end of February. This, coupled with a subsequent butterfly effect that may lead to a downward revision in demand, as well as problems such as inflation and sustained high freight rates, make it difficult for brands to realize aggressive shipping goals. Therefore, TrendForce preliminarily revises downward its LCD monitor shipment forecast for this year, from 144 million units to 142 million units, expanding annual negative growth rate to 2.3%, without ruling out a possibility of further downward revision.
Notebook demand under downward pressure from inflation and soaring component inventories
In terms of the notebook computer market, TrendForce revises downward its original 238 million unit shipment forecast to 225 million units, a decrease of 8.5% YoY. There are three primary factors to this downgrade. First, Chromebooks benefited from the pandemic driving demand for distance education in 2021, accounting for 15% of total notebook shipments. Chromebook shipments are forecast to decline by more than 50% in 2022 as a whole, disrupting total notebook shipments by approximately 7~10%. Second, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has caused most notebook brands to suspend shipments to Russia. Russia accounted for approximately 2% of global notebook shipments in 2021 and a suspension will also curb the demand for notebook shipments. Third, every notebook brand has revised 2022 shipment forecasts downward by approximately 10-15% on average compared to the beginning of the year, indicating that inflation has clouded these brand’s future demand outlook. The inventory of the entire supply chain including certain in-transit ODM/OEM components, continues to climb while the prices of some components continue to face downward pressure, resulting in intertwined problems and forcing notebook brands to prudently control purchasing momentum, which may further impact the upstream supply chain.
According to the latest TrendForce research, although factors such as panel and component mismatch and supply issues and the fading effects of the stay-at-home economy influenced shipments of e-sports LCD monitors (defined as refresh rates above 100Hz) in 2021, many brands targeted e-sports LCD monitors in 4Q21 with a strategy of aggressively reducing e-sports product pricing to prompt a volume surge and successfully boosted shipments of e-sports LCD monitors to 22.8 million units in 2021, with an annual growth rate of 24%. However, growth momentum will slow in 2022. In addition to long lead times, the most significant variable remains the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian war. If the war continues, it will impair European market demand and affect the shipment performance of e-sports-related products. In addition, the Russian-Ukrainian war has triggered a surge in the prices of crude oil, metal, and agricultural commodities, spiking previously growing inflationary pressure. Thus, TrendForce conservatively estimates shipments of e-sports LCD monitors at 26.1 million units in 2022, with an annual growth rate of 14%.
In terms of product types, the market share of flat-screen e-sport LCD monitors reached 59% in 2021, officially surpassing the 41% of curved monitors. Last year, when Samsung Display (SDC) faded out of the supply chain, it caused a shortage in the supply of curved panels, increasing the magnitude of price hikes. In addition, the supply of flat IPS e-sports products continued to increase, resulting in a decline in the competitiveness of the curved panel market. In 2022, the market share of flat and curved panels will remain unchanged but the supply of curved gaming panels from the two major suppliers, AUO and CSOT, will continue to grow with curved e-sports panel pricing the first to fall. The cost-effective advantage of whole curved e-sports devices has reemerged, which will bump the market share of curved e-sports LCD monitors to 43%.
In terms of e-sports product resolution, FHD (1920×1080), QHD (2560×1440), UHD (3840×2160), and Ultra-wide (2560×1080/3440×1440/5120×1440, etc.), in 2021, FHD captured the highest market share at 62.9% followed by QHD, Ultra-wide, and UHD. TrendForce believes, in addition to continuously improving e-sports product specifications, the simultaneous improvement of resolution will assist monitor brands in maintaining or improving profitability. Especially since, starting from 4Q21, the supply of 34-inch (21:9) wide-screen VA products increased significantly. This coupled with noticeable panel price reductions, expands profit margin and allows monitor brands more room to operate and is expected to drive wide-screen monitors to compete for a 13.4% market share in 2022.