Following Part 1’s assessment of the key occurrences in the eSports industry from a business perspective in the opening six months of 2015, here’s more of the same for the latter part of the year.
Ashton Kutcher became the latest high profile investor in eSports as he joined billionaire Mark Cuban in investing in Unikrn.
Kutcher has a successful track record of investments having put money into the likes of Uber, Foursquare as well as Skype before it was purchased by Microsoft.
Daily Fantasy Sports site FanDuel gained entry into the world of eSports by purchasing AlphaDraft. FanDuel’s CEO and Co-Founder, Nigel Eccles, said of the news: “With over 200 million people globally watching eSports, AlphaDraft gives those fans a way to engage with this burgeoning entertainment product that creates an enormous opportunity for us.”
Fellow daily fantasy sports operator DraftKings staked their claim of the eSports pie with news that it’d be sponsoring six leading organisations in North America. These included Cloud9, Team SoloMid, Counter Logic Gaming, SK Gaming, CompLexity Gaming and Mousesports. The deal was brokered by WME-IMG.
Matt Kalish, DraftKings’s CRO and co-founder said: “Our partnerships with Cloud 9, TSM, CLG, SK Gaming, compLexity Gaming, and Mousesports show our strong commitment to the eSports space, and our desire to work with top teams and players to support and help grow this booming space.”
September also saw sports giant ESPN throw their hat into the eSports ring officially with a job posting going live for an eSports Editor.
October saw Activision Blizzard launch its new competitive gaming division with Steve Bornstein, the former ESPN CEO, as chairman.
Unikrn meanwhile announced its eSports integrity certification programme. CEO Rahul Sood said: “As eSports reaches a tipping point of mainstream acceptance, the legitimacy of match results is more paramount than ever.”
He added: “Advertisers, investors and fans depend on it, and that is why we’re launching a collaborative system to ensure competitive integrity and anti-cheating across all major competitions. The key here is getting all key stakeholders to the table, engaging in proactive discussions to set industry standards.”
A somewhat historical moment in the UK took place with the BBC live-streaming the League of Legends World Championship quarter finals from Wembley Arena.
Leigh Smith, a popular eSports commentator, said: “I’m delighted to be part of the BBC’s coverage at Wembley Arena. The World Championships has been amazing so far and it’s great to see the BBC getting involved and raising awareness of eSports in the UK.”
MTG continued its industry acquisitions with the purchase of Swedish eSports giants DreamHack. DreamHack is a major eSports player, and the organiser of the largest digital festivals worldwide DreamHack Summer and DreamHack Winter. The value of the deal was a reported $28m (£18.8m).
November also witnessed the launch of Team Unikrn, the first professional all female eSports team. The team comprised of players from across Europe compete in Counter Strike: Global Offensive. Team member, Melania Mylioti, told SBC: “We expect eSports will continue to mature and more women will jump in, we’re ready for them when they do!”
EA announced a new division in December focussed purely on eSports with Peter Moore in charge.
The final month of the year also brought the big news that broadcasting giant Turner are planning to launch a Counter Strike: Global Offensive televised league in 2016.
Whilst dates are yet to be confirmed it’s been revealed that the league will be available to watch on TBS, and Network President and Chief Creative Officer for Turner, Kevin Reilly said: “The level of rabid fandom and engagement that we see in this world is extraordinary and we aim to up the experience for both the players and fans alike and provide a cutting-edge live experience on both linear and digital TBS platforms.”
So there you have it, that’s a wrap on eSports business in 2015.
Many industry insiders are of the opinion that 2016 looks set to be an even bigger year for the sport, and with big backers such as Coca Cola and Red Bull continuing to invest heavily, not to mention TBS’s decision to televise a league, it doesn’t look a bad bet.