eSports is big business. The multi-million dollar industry is expected to generate over $1bn in revenues in 2018, according to USA Today. It’s a market which is only going to increase with news that the Olympic Committee of Asia announcing that in 2022, eSports will be a medal event at the Asian Games. While the International Olympic Committee is unconvinced, Alibaba’s Alisports which sponsors the Olympics in the USA is heavily involved with the Asian Games. Is the LA2024 team going to follow through on its interest in eSports by including a tournament within their bid? With the big money comes big business. We take a look at eight companies involved in eSports.
In 2014, Amazon bought Twitch.tv, the largest streaming platform for eSports in the world. At the time, it was reported the site “attracts millions of visitors every month”. That year, Qwilt declared Twitch had a 43.6% market share of live-streaming traffic. Little wonder Google were interested in buying it. Since buying it, Amazon has grown traffic to 100m visitors per year and last year added Curse, an online media and gaming community, to its stable, working closely with its own Amazon Game Studios.
Twitch may have been first off the mark with live-streaming of eSports but Facebook weren’t slow to react. In September 2017, the culmination of their work came with the announcement of a partnership between Hi-Rez Studios and the World ESports Association that Facebook Live will exclusively stream all content for the newly-formed Paladins Premier League. The league features 10 professional teams with Hi-Rez, creators of the Paladins game, declaring their intent to invest $3m in the first year to cover salaries. It’s another part of the growing Facebook portfolio following the deal to show ESL video game tournaments throughout the next 12 months.
Manchester City FC
Arguably the world’s richest football club, Manchester City already has a vast portfolio of clubs in other countries. Australia, USA, Spain, Japan and Uruguay. Moving into eSports ought to come as no surprise and in July 2016, City announced they were signing their first professional eSports player, Kieran ‘Kez’ Brown. He recently took part in his first tournament as a City player at the FIFA Interactive Club World Cup in London. City senior VP, media and innovation, Diego Gigliani recently said that the club saw this as an “evolution” and a way to “get closer to our fans, who love playing Fifa as Manchester City”, as well monetising their fan base.
The eSports betting market is expected to reach $12bn by 2020 with the potential to increase at a higher rate following the success of streaming platforms such Twitch and Facebook Live. Prominent in the market is Betway, whose close association with eSports began in 2015 with sponsorship of the ESL UK Premiership. The online bookmaker followed that last year by become the lead sponsor of professional eSports team, Ninjas in Pyjamas. This year Betway will sponsor ESL Pro League 2017 where, as with the ESL One Cologne, live odds will be broadcast as players seek their share of the multi-million pound prize pool.
The studios which brought you Bambi, Snow White and the latest episodes in the Star Wars franchise has moved into the eSports market in a big way. Firstly, they joined aXiomatic which is the majority owner of Team Liquid, an elite eSports team with 60 players, coaches and staff. The group also partly owns Super League Gaming, which hosts eSports tournaments in cinemas, as well as online. Then Disney aired segments of Super Smash Bros and Streetfighter tournaments on their TV channel Disney XD. It represents a major move for eSports, being the first major broadcaster to screen live tournaments on a pay-channel.
Rivaling Disney is Activision which bought MLG last year with the sole aim of setting itself as the lead broadcaster of eSports. CEO Bobby Kotick declared that he wants to “create the ESPN of eSports.” MLG were in talks with Yahoo in 2015 over a sale but that came to nought and with the media conglomerate merging with AOL, it’s probably just as well with their eSports division closing down. A pity for Activision that ESPN and parent company Disney has got involved in eSports as well but with MLG broadcast capabilities, Activision shouldn’t remain a sleeping giant in this marketplace for much longer.
The German carmaker announced a sponsorship deal with Astralis, a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive eSports team. Audi’s four-ring logo is emblazoned on Astralis’ team shirts, the new design was debuted at the ELEAGUE Major in Atlanta, Georgia earlier this year.
It’s Audi’s second venture into eSports when it backed a 2016 event promoting Forza. With carmakers in general having strong associations across motorsport, there are strong hopes that Vorsprung durch Technik will be seen as a rallying cry for the likes of Mercedes, with their own F1 team, to get involved with the motor-racing genre of eSports.
The sport apparel conglomerate is emerging as a major player in the eSports sponsorship market. Recent investments include Spanish team ASUS ROG Army, for whom they will provide bespoke teamwear until 2020. This after they added Team Vitality to their roster in January. The German-based multinational is providing replica clothing in the Spanish league’s online store. With their success in the football industry – among other sports – Adidas are stealing a march on their rivals, spearheading the eSports commercialisation.