Esports is getting air-time on cable TV. In particular in the United States of America where ESPN have aired League of Legends, Overwatch, and Dota 2 major tournaments in recent years. While it has been widely viewed on YouTube, Twitch, or broadcaster-exclusive apps like MLG for a long time, the move to cable TV represents a significant development from mainstream broadcasters and networks looking to feed the demand and up the production-value for major esports events.
Professional players and ex-pros become popular streamers and have, as such, raised awareness and interest in the competitive aspects of gaming titles. This is where there’s a marked difference between esports and traditional sports. Never before have fans had such access to training and personalities. Aside from scrimmaging against other pro teams, which aren’t showcased because it would give away in-game strategies and play styles, viewers can spend hours and hours almost every day watching their favourite gamers do their thing before they take it to the main stage to compete for big prize pools.
Esports Organizations’ Scope
Esports organizations are media brands, in essence. Not only do they have professional teams, often on a variety of titles, but they also contract content creators who represent the organization as personalities, as opposed to competitors (though, of course, content creators often compete in tournaments, but not in the same way that the ‘professionals’ do it). They diversify their interests, like any good business.
Investors are seeing value in this booming market of esports and streaming. 100 Thieves, founded by Matt ‘Nadeshot’ Haag – a former professional Call of Duty player – as an apparel company, enticed Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, whose money allowed Haag to launch 100 Thieves into an esports organization. Later, Drake and Scooter Braun joined in because Haag pitched the apparel-turned-esports-organization as becoming a lifestyle brand. Investor Tej Kohli is another example, as he, via his venture company, put €20million into Team Vitality, a France-based esports organization who are routinely competing in major titles like League of Legends, FIFA and Counter Strike: Global Offensive and look to continue their global ambitions for esports to rival traditional sports.
These brands are competing on two fronts: rivalling traditional sports as entertainment and as brands which are more than the competition.
The most popular esports titles are those which don’t get new iterations. For instance, Overwatch, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and League of Legends have not received sequel treatments, or other such releases. They get updated via patches, so the fundamental mechanics of the game stay consistent and it’s only via expansions and content changes does the game evolve, usually very steadily. However, titles like Call of Duty and FIFA – major global sellers – release games annually.
Call of Duty has a two-developer cycle, with Treyarch producing a game and the following year, Infinity Ward. While EA are the sole developers of FIFA – and this is a similar story for other traditional sports video game titles like NBA 2K and Madden – the game has fundamental differences year-on-year. As such, their esports becomes more volatile and suspect to drastic change with each season, as how good a pro is on one title might be different enough to lower their value to the point of no longer being worth the investment.
As esports booms and organizes itself, the scope and depth for an organization’s brand – like 100 Thieves – seems far-reaching, more so than many other sports-related brands have before. These aren’t like Adidas or Nike. They’re much more.