This week the ‘eSports IQ by Alex Fletcher‘ features the following content: eSports goes to school; The eSports culture shift; Getting smart about eSports on TV; AnyKey diversity initiative; Emmy Awards; Academy for aspiring eSports athletes; Cineplex takes a shot at eSports market.

eSports goes to school

The rise of eSports educational curriculum has begun. A school in Sweden, is launching a course dedicated to find the next eSports star. Not to be outdone, Miami University in the USA approved a fall 2016 course focused on eSports. The topic of competitive gaming is entering discourse at institutions of learning, not only as a trend, but bona fide phenomenon. The growing study of eSports will take multiple forms, to reflect its multi-dimensional complexion. Some approaches will focus on competitive gaming as a form of sport while others will emphasize its entertainment and media properties. A great deal of this momentum for learning is being driven by a growing recognition of a wider impact of video games in general culture. Gaming is not just a hobby; it encompasses an assortment of experiences with a varying array of applications.

The eSports culture shift

The firing of a popular eSports personality, James “2GD” Harding, as host of the Dota 2 Shanghai Major might not seem generally relevant, but its details reveal a key cultural shift that is fast occurring. Since its advent, competitive gaming has thrived on uncensored discourse and loose notions of professionalism. In fact, it could be argued that these elements are at the heart of eSports communities. However, as the domain edges towards mainstream acceptance, an identity crisis, of sorts, has begun to emerge. Especially as traditional media and entertainment properties have begun to focus on competitive gaming. In essence, the cultural tone so vital to the rise of eSports is fast becoming mutually exclusive with further popularization. Mr. Harding expressed regret that [the eSports community] is “…pretending to be sports when we are not.” Yet, at this point, it’s not if eSports will continue to become more traditional sport-like, but how much can it afford to change before losing core authenticity?

Getting smart about eSports on TV

Even as TV continues its acceptance of competitive gaming, several key misunderstandings still persist. Notably, the assumption that core demographics for eSport viewership will be drawn to the TV screen, once programming content is available there. Leading figures in the broadcast TV world are banking that crossing linear and OTT content will entice digital natives to the former. Unfortunately, this gamble ignores a huge distinction. Wildly popular online eSports content is marked by basically zero barriers to access, outside of an internet connection. On the other hand, the option of viewing across PCs, mobile phones and laptops is non-existent for the vast majority of linear content, which is walled in by paywalls, e.g. a cable subscription. It’s not realistic to assume that large numbers of viewers, in segments already unlikely to watch TV, are going to navigate higher barriers to view content there; especially if that content is already online. At the end of the day, eSports has found such a following amongst digital natives because its distribution model aligns with their viewing preferences, not the other way around.

AnyKey diversity initiative

Intel and ESL target diversity in eSports in advance of the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) finals in Katowice, Poland, March 4-6. The new AnyKey diversity initiative is meant to attract underrepresented members of competitive communities, e.g. women, LGBTQ participants, and people of color. While AnyKey comes across as a timely and well-structured effort, addressing issues like gender imbalances will take time. Yes, there are steps that can/should be taken over the near term. Unfortunately, an immediate panacea does not exist. The goal should be to consistently expand the complexion of the competitive gaming portrait by striking down barriers to participation, as opposed to harping on “overrepresentation” by majority groups.

Emmy Awards

The Emmy Awards announced that its format is expanding to allow for the inclusion of more online creators. As general content consumption patterns disperse across a wider ecosystem, this move is timely. The question becomes, if the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences now accepts less traditional forms of art, how long before the world of sports media expands to include competitive gaming?

Academy for aspiring eSports athletes

Team Ember, the recently launched eSports team, continues to generate headlines by investing eye-catching amounts into publicly available player salaries, and now an academy for aspiring eSports athletes. The team’s approach to brand building has been notable, even if the long term trajectory for their initial spend levels isn’t yet clear. On one hand, Ember could be at the forefront of a new model for eSports teams; where teams are scaled like high tech startups. On the other hand, their approach could prove too far ahead of the curve for ROI rates in the industry. Either way, team Ember is developing the use case, for all to see.

Cineplex takes a shot at eSports market

Cineplex is wagering that Toronto is a fertile breeding ground for regional eSports. And as formal outlets for competitive video games move into local communities across the world, the amateur playing scene comes into focus. It will be interesting to observe how independently organized amateur layers feed into already fractured professional segments; especially when companies like Cineplex hold the lock and key. Perhaps game developers will take the lead and pursue partnerships as a funnel into neighborhoods across the world. However, this depends on the model for regional competition proving scalable and capable of profit generation.

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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!

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Image source:, Photographer: Helena Kristiannson