More money, power, mobility, and opportunity exist for business corporations than ever before. The disparity in what makes businesses successful is widening by the day, but in a good way. Those who are successful are intrinsically intriguing in their modeling, including progressive pushes forward to attempt bettering society. The central tenant at the end is the quantitative ability to take risk. Risk does not always equate success, but risk paints the pattern for resounding success through correlation. Esports currently is riding in the boat of success due to the individual risk that has been taken by multiple micro organizations. Narrowing down the wider business implications, esport organizations are collectively more willing to follow the pattern of risk. The month of August manifested this in the clearest light. Esports updates throughout the month of August included revenue trajectories, the risk of branding, esports in the Olympics, and college campuses risking their brand with organized, varsity esports. August was a great, all be it overwhelming, month for introspect into esports and how the micro organization are progressively pushing to create succinct and positive opportunity.
Esports Updates – August Brings Revenue, Opportunity, and Functional Risk
Money Makes the World Go Around
Talking about meta hope and opportunity for success of the future is one matter, but in the end, money proves success. And the money being distributed throughout the esports world is astounding. Compiled by the Daily Mail for the 2017 year thus far, esports is trending upward.
Starting with DOTA, the team based arena fighter has rewarded £25 Million throughout 2017 – only £4 Million under the 2016 mark. However, with only three major matches left, one of the largest esports prize pool will be pushing to match the £29 Million 2016 mark.
The other two major financial esports titles, League of Legends and CS:GO, are on a trajectory to be the main support for esports breaking the £75 Million prize pool given to all esport competitions. Currently at £53 million, the last four months of 2017 will be exciting for business partners. The League of Legends World Championship will alone bring in approximately £4 million to the prize pool (estimated from the 2016 prize pool).
CS:GO has several major events left, with a plethora of minor events, making the success of CS:GO essential to the meta prospects for finances. The determined prizes for CS:GO events currently add up to just over £3 million alone; thus several minor events with undetermined prize pools could add another half million pounds to the grand total.
Between the three major esport titles, the worst-case scenario would create £61 million in prize pool money. These events are likely to derive more once they come to fruition. However, factor in the plethora of minor events. One of the best prospects for the growth of esports is the addition and interest garnished from minor, back-end titles.
Halo 5: Guardians, Call of Duty Infinite Warfare, Quake, H1Z1, Rocket League, RLCS 4, Overwatch, Quake, and Player Unknown’s Battle Ground (PUBG) are all now counted into the total prize pool.
Rocket League added in £620,000 alone, while the brimming new game PUBG brought in £256,000 despite having only 30 registered players. The spotlight on these new and growing games shows the willingness for business teams to provide functional risk. It may not be attractive, per say, but the risk is inherently practical as they are capitalizing on booming interest.
The back end of esports will, hopefully, continue to grow each year as each new title attempts to find a niche in esports. Even games such as For Honor, despite being disastrously buggy, are forcing their way into the competitive seen. Recall the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles this year, one of the overwhelming themes was each new first-person shooter or team-based combat game trying to find their way into the esports market. Esports is now seen as a viable path for profit and popularity for game developers. Too much money and opportunity is involved for developers to ignore the competitive scene.
According to Last Word on Sport’s rough estimation, the back end of esports and major titles will put the total prize money for 2017 at £85 million pounds, or $110 million. (Daily Mail is more optimistic at £100 million pounds in total prizes for 2017). This is ramifications from a meticulous increase in major esports titles, but largely the result of the vast increase in esports interest from back end developers expanding the horizons of possibility. More non-intrinsic esports titles are seeing attempts to become worked into the esports market.
Overwatch League Demands Distinct Branding
Adding to the growth of the Overwatch League was recent developmental and league formatting updates. Updates to the game created opportunity for a changing and involving narrative thanks to the imaginative Jeff Kaplan. Meanwhile, league formatting added two new teams, including an all-important London team and a new Los Angeles brand.
However, Blizzard took a page from the NFL by throwing a Friday news dump into commissioner Nate Nanzer’s interview with Sports Business Daily. Nanzer confirmed that all new teams need to create unique branding a la the NFL franchises. Simply put, teams won’t be “Overwatch Boston” or “Cloud9 Overwatch”. Rather, those teams must create identities such as “Boston Bastions” or “London Lions”.
The news has received mixed reviews from the Overwatch community. The traditionalist esports fans continue groaning as Blizzard attempts to move more toward the traditional sports model. However, optimists see this as a method to normalize instead of marginalizing the competition.
Continuing in the theme of risk, Blizzard’s decision to push this forward is the step they must take to separate themselves from the crowd. Nanzer has painted a vision for a premier and standard esports league model; and unique branding is a step no other esports league has ever considered.
Much like the early days of the NFL, esports teams have stuck to names that match their sponsors. Example: Cloud9 is an overarching organization that owns multiple esports teams. However, no matter DOTA 2, the fighting game community, or LOL, the teams are known as Cloud9. This is akin to how the Green Bay Packers received their name from the original supporter Acme Packing Company, or the Chicago Cub’s Wrigley Field earning the name from sponsor Wrigley.
Individual branding also creates a unique fan perspective where they can buy merchandise and gear for their favorite brands. Each team now becomes further cultured, creating the ever-important pull of fan pride.
Cloud9 is making the most of the recent announcement by asking fans what their team should be called. While most teams will create smart business plans, Cloud9 could set themselves up for a hilarious scenario.
Esports in Olympics – Athlete or Entertainment?
The long enduring debate of, “Is esports an athletic event?” has been fueled again by the consideration of adding esports competition to the 2024 Olympic games. While plenty of pundits have offered their opinion, the question from the Olympics points to a question that has been totally ignored.
Are the Olympics still a celebration of athletics, akin to its millennium old Athenian inception, or has it befallen to a mere entertainment venue?
The Olympics is seen by many as the sacred inclusion and celebration of physical training and power asserted through years of physical preparation. The semantics come down to definitions, and Olympic events have always been defined as athletic, and athletic defined as physical. To pull back the curtain a bit, even here at Last Word on Sports, the adopted style guide (compiled from several larger esports teams) requests that the term athletes not be used.
By definition, no, esports team members are not athletes defined, but instead are termed competitors. Which raises the question, can esports be included under the Olympic definition by way of competitive event? In fact, yes. The athletic motif described in the above paragraph is in perception only.
The definition that esports would fit into would be a discipline, defined as, “An event is a competition in a sport or discipline that gives rise to a ranking.” While this does not allow for a solution to esports competitors being called athletes, the definition of a discipline fits the narrative of esports.
However, the next problem posed is to be included as a sport in the Olympics, an International Oversight Committee must be involved. Without an IOC currently monitoring esports, one would have to be created for the particular game included. Making matters even more challenging, the Olympic Committee has requested non-violent games be included, leaving Rocket League as the prime candidate opposed to a major title such as DOTA.
However, the closing argument that would allow esports into the Olympic games is taken from the spirit of the modern Olympic celebration of 1924. (Attributed from the Olympic games media guide.)
“Pierre de Coubertin adopted this ideal for the modern Olympic Games and proposed including art and culture in the programme of the Games. On his initiative, architecture, sculpture, painting, literature and music competitions were part of the Olympic Games from 1912 to 1948.”
If music competitions can be included as a celebration of the mind, then the strategy of the DOTA, LOL, or Rocket League have room in the Olympic games.
Therefore, the only question that remains is, would putting esports under the scrutiny of the world be healthy for the competition, or merely subject it to ruthless jokes of the event?
Opportunity in College Competition
Pushing forward into new technological trends is nothing new for colleges. However, what is unique is adding those technological trends into the competitive scene as a singular event. Boise State has now jumped into the professionalism of esports in the college scene.
Make no mistake, esports and competition is an age-old tradition in the college setting. Many players got their start in the college by playing in groups with friends. Communities for games such as Smash Bros. have even built deeply intertwined programs. The Big Ten even held a televised League of Legends event on their network composed of the multiple student organizations. But professionally affiliated varsity programs are a new venture.
Boise State, University of Utah, Georgia State University, and Miami of Ohio are the four Division I programs who have created varsity, competitive esports programs. Although these programs are not under the athletic department, they will receive full official support from their respective departments.
Although esports under the official umbrella of universities may be a rare sight, Blizzard is helping pave the way for a minor league of sorts. Tespa, the esports collegiate club supported by Blizzard official, received an additional $1 Million in scholarships. Further, they will launch Tespa University as a minor league for competitive esports players to train.
Tespa includes Overwatch, World of Warcraft, Rocket League, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and Star Craft II. Blizzard has developed two branches for prospects. The first paves a competitive league for top tier players, while the second provides practice connections for new players hoping to become esport players. Main events will be soon streamed on unannounced systems. There are currently 138 active chapters of Tespa across the United States.