eSports IQ, Marketing

eSports IQ week 5: ‘ESPN continues investment in collegiate eSports’ and more insights

This week the ‘eSports IQ by Alex Fletcher‘ features the following content: Publisher Take Two is planning a $250,000 tournament for NBA 2K16; Leaked emails related to a secret meeting between eSports tournament organizer demonstrate the corrosive effect of unstructured, circuit-style tournaments; Martin Shkreli allegedly owes tens of thousands to former players and associates in esports; ESPN continues investment in collegiate eSports; Online surveys find eSports still nascent; Match fixing is still a big issue

Clearing the air on new eSports offerings

The trend of official developer support for competitive gaming continues with the NBA 2K game title. Publisher Take Two is planning a tournament for the massively popular, NBA 2K16; featuring a top prize of $250,000. To clarify, Take Two’s tournament and the EA Sports Competitive Gaming Division represent a different brand of competitive gaming. For games like NBA 2K16 and Madden, competitive game communities are a more part of user retention strategy than anything else. Unlike for free-to-play titles like League of Legends, large user bases, yearly releases, and a pay-to-play model reduce the premium on structured competitive scenes. With NBA 2K16 breaking franchise sales records, Take Two isn’t dependent on an eSports angle to monetize or grow sales. However, a competitive gaming community does offer professional sports leagues novel opportunity for digital fan engagement. Meaning both the NBA and NFL have a fair amount to gain. The NFL has already jumped on the opportunity, look for the NBA to follow suite.

Tournament scene reveals cracks

Leaked emails related to a secret meeting between eSports tournament organizer, ESL and select team owners of professional Counter-Strike teams, demonstrate the corrosive effect of unstructured, circuit-style tournaments. As popularity of Counter-Strike eSports grows, and with large media players like Turner Sports entering the fray, expect an arms race of alliances to quickly take effect. Yet, lacking an established governance body this is bound to encourage an asymmetric character for the professional level. Leaving the onus to sustain transparent and equitable competitive practices on companies like ESL is folly. For non-endemics considering marketing investments in Counter-Strike eSports, this is a significant caution. With tournament organizers wielding unchecked power, potential sponsors are left subject to the whims of an ESL, whose commitment to Counter-Strike may vary; a reality which handicaps the number of business opportunities across the entire scene.

Shady LCS ownership taints growth

Lack of controls on ownership in the world’s biggest eSport league, Riot Games’ League Championship Series (LCS), continues to rear its ugly head. This time it’s Martin Shkreli, pharmaceutical CEO, and former owner of Maelstrom Gaming who allegedly owes his former team managers and players nearly $75,000 USD. Maelstrom Gaming’s former coach, Rohit Nathani, has obtained legal representation and plans to pursue back wages in the court of law. However, the glaring lack of accountability and visibility into who buys, merges and attains ownership in the LCS is troubling. In the case of Mr. Shkreli, a dubious businessman who’s currently facing federal charges for buoying a collapsed hedge fund, it’s appalling how easy it was for him to buy into the LCS, even at the amateur level. Not a single alarm was sounded, nor was any red flags raised along the way. A fact that brings the LCS’ commitment to building stable infrastructure into serious question.

ESPN continues investment in collegiate eSports

On the heels of beginning dedicated coverage for competitive gaming, ESPN announced that “Heroes of the Dorm” will be returning for a second season in 2016. Last year’s inaugural campaign debuted with, a less than impressive, 0.1 Nielsen rating, but seemed to meet ESPN’s expectations; a sentiment supported by this year’s return. With over $500,000 USD on the line and a growing groundswell of momentum for eSports on television, none of this should come as a surprise. However, it’s important to keep in mind what the first wave of eSports on TV is best suited to accomplish: wider cultural acceptance for the world of competitive gaming. Contrary to widely held assumptions, eSports enthusiasts are firmly entrenched within digital platforms and will remain that way regardless of new additions to cable TV programming. Instead, programming like Heroes of the Dorm or Turner’s ELEAGUE will help etch awareness amongst non-eSports crowds; similar to the role that televising the X Games had for action sports.

Online surveys find eSports still nascent

Despite gaining more mainstream acceptance in 2015, electronic sports are still in the very early stages of general awareness. Results from a Tellwut online survey point to a low (22%) overall understanding of what eSports are and an even lower number of followers (4.78%). These are key data points which help frame the bigger context within which competitive gaming currently sits. For all of the impressive industry growth and outside investment, 2016 is still at the far left of the eSports growth curve. Look for this year to feature, a significant uptick in penetration of the overall video game marketplace for eSports. Buoyed by a continued shift to digital game distribution and growth in social communities around games, competitive gaming will occupy a larger mindshare for gamers across the globe. This will open the door to more fans, followers and revenue generating opportunities within eSports.

Match fixing is still a big issue

The arrest of 19 year old StarCraft II pro, Lee “Life” Seung Hyun for alleged association with match fixing highlights a continuing plague within eSports. Mister Seung Hyun is widely considered one of the best StarCraft II players in the world, having gone pro at 14 years of age. The advancement of electronic sport in Korea far exceeds that of anywhere in the rest of the world, which is a troubling sign for European and North America. Even with superior infrastructure, including organizations like the Korean eSports Association (KeSPA), Korea still suffers from high profile scandals that diminish the integrity of competitive gaming. While there is an undeniable cultural element at play, match fixing is alive and well outside of Korea. In fact, it could be argued that it goes mostly undetected in regions without a commitment to overt eSports recognition and national organization. This speaks to the necessity of eSports governance and oversight, not as an afterthought, but as a mandate.

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About ‘eSports IQ’

The ‘eSports IQ’ is compiled by Alex Fletcher, the founder and president of Entiva Group, LLC, and features insights on the latest emerging trends in eSports. By curating invaluable content from a wide range of information sources you get the leading edge in the business of eSports. Increase your eSports iQ today by signing up for the eSports IQ newsletter!

Image source: eslgaming.com, Photographer: Patrick Strack

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This blog is published by the ENPE Media GmbH, a German marketing and event agency located in Cologne, which focuses on conception, realization and supervision of events and marketing campaigns in eSports.

On this blog we cover marketing-relevant content within the eSports market. Additionally we introduce newcomers to the potentials, structures, risks and features of the eSports market.

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