This week the ‘eSports IQ by Alex Fletcher‘ features the following content: A new head honcho at Riot eSports; Founders of “Food Lover’s Market” invest into a local competitive gaming organization; Watching the future of eSports on campus; eSports is growing but has not started scaling; There are no major professional leagues; A new form of tech media.
A new head honcho at Riot eSports
This week marked the creation of a chairman role for its League Championship Series (LCS) and appointment of Dustin Beck — for League of Legends publisher, Riot Games. Whether this is a promotion or lateral move for Beck, previously the VP of eSports and merchandise remains unclear. It is clear that Beck will delegate eSports duties to Whalen Rozelle and Jarred Kennedy. As the LCS embarks upon a critical year in its existence, this is an interesting move. It could also signal further structural changes within the eSports division, at large. Look for Riot to continue to divvy up the growing cadre of responsibilities; perhaps, including official leadership of media and broadcast. Why? Well, after the brushback from splitting up rights to air its League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK), coupled with mounting competition from players like Turner, with debut of its ELEAGUE, Riot must demonstrate far better strategy and execution in this critical area.
Food for thought
Founders of “Food Lover’s Market,” a leading South African food retailer, invested an undisclosed sum into a local competitive gaming organization, called Orena. Thus far the number, and scale, of non-endemic companies investing into eSports has paled in comparison to overall growth. Yet despite attention drawn by the involvement of a handful of large multi-nationals in eSports, the wider opportunity exists at the local level. Partnerships rooted at this level are also more accurate health indicators for overall eSports traction. Especially since early investments by large, global corporations typically amount to small projects within overall marketing budgets. So while names like American Express and Coca-Cola grab headlines, it is the expanding “long tail” of non-endemics who will feed the ecosystem.
Watching the future of eSports on campus
Investments into eSports at the collegiate levels speak to the groundswell of potential, but is the future watchable? Ultimately, that’s one of the most important questions surrounding efforts like the uLoL Campus Series. However, two other points underscore the future of college eSports: the yet developing professional scene and university governance. While traditional amateur sports feed into developed professional scenes, amateur eSports are reliant upon the involvement of game publishers like Riot Games or Activision Blizzard. This is unsustainable. Should competitive gaming spread across the United States, this dependency will limit growth. Add to that, there’s question if a private company should have a stake in competitions which involve students, representing independent institutions of higher learning, without governance of a body for amateurism.
eSports is growing but has not started scaling
Notable profit generators in traditional sports and entertainment do not exist in eSports today. For example, traditional sports rely heavily on revenues from TV broadcast rights; no such precedent exists for competitive gaming. Lacking similar economies of scale, revenue figures are reflective of a fragmented and emerging industry. Additionally, there is still a huge gap in cultural integration for eSports. With this already changing, there will be even larger audiences, more fans, and opportunities for growth. ESPN’s incorporation of eSports coverage, alone, will have a significant effect on acceptance of competitive gaming. Current numbers will be dwarfed once the profile for eSports goes from the enthusiast domain to mainstream tour de force.
There are no major professional leagues
The closest thing to an organized, professional approach to a competitive gaming league is Riot Games’ League Championship Series (LCS). And even the LCS does not qualify as a major professional league. Lacking features like regulation, ownership groups and franchises, it’s very difficult to compare eSports to major pro sport leagues; especially when the purpose of major professional leagues is to facilitate monetary returns for a sport product. With that in mind, eSports’ comparatively diminutive revenue levels are a given. In fact, this will remain the case, despite year-over-year growth, until competitive gaming attains better professionalization. This means organized bodies for the furtherance of structure and institution; including player unions, competitive integrity programs and governance/policy guidelines.
A new form of tech media
Striking parallels with physical sports aside, eSports is actually a highly entertaining form of tech media. Regardless if general acceptance as a “sport” ever occurs, competitive gaming represents much more. As such, inflection points are not easily predictable. There are a number of unknowns which will factor into the trajectory and magnitude of growth. For example, despite a digital backdrop eSports remains relatively low-tech. As a result, there is a whole segment of products and services that will emerge over the next 12 – 24 months to fill this gap. Furthermore, outside of basic demographic details, next to nothing is known about the eSport consumer. Patterns on marketing to this entirely new segment are in their very early stages, as is penetration by non-endemic brands and companies.
- Riot Games creates chairman position for the LCS – dailydot.com
- The founders of Food Lover’s Market have invested in South African eSports – lazygamer.net
- Can college eSports find an audience? – redbull.com
- Why eSports is NOT a Major Professional Sport YET – youtube.com
- ESPN Launches Vertical to Cover eSports, Competitive Gaming – variety.com
- The eSports Marketing Playbook Goes Live – entivagroup.net
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: Helena Kristiannson