The evolution of Esports and the Juggernaut’s share of momentum being carried by the industry have been on full display in the past couple of weeks in the form of some major announcements. Esports organizations, big name brands and companies, and major leagues have all announced significant partnerships and developments in the past few weeks and we'll outline them here-- including links to the announcements from the involved parties themselves.
Liquid announces sales partnership with Twitch: February 21st
Team Liquid, one of the winningest Esports organizations in the world, announced that Twitch, easily one of the largest streaming platforms in the world, will become their "exclusive sponsorship sales representative." The two industry goliaths team up to create an insanely wide-reaching pair with Team Liquid competing in at least fourteen popular Esport games and Twitch being the streaming platform of choice for many industry influencers. In Liquid's own words, "This is a partnership that's meant to scale with us into the late game. Expect bigger brands, better activations, and more one-of-a-kind campaigns." It's evident that the big names of Esports are preparing for the industry to expand even further and they are building something that's meant to last.
Blizzard introduces Hearthstone Masters: February 21st
Blizzard Entertainment introduced the Hearthstone Masters, a collection of competitive events meant to "[evolve] Hearthstone Esports into a more sustainable, entertaining, and accessible program." The Hearthstone Masters Qualifiers and The Hearthstone Masters Tour make up the initial aspects of this new program. Masters Qualifiers are exactly as they sound, more than two dozen qualifying tournaments will be held each week during the qualifying season. Blizzard teams up with Battlefly to host these tournaments which will be accessible to anyone eligible (which is pretty much anyone living in the areas participating) and performing well enough can get you invited to the Masters Tour-- huge tournaments with significant prize pools ($250,000 in Las Vegas for their first). After all of that is said and done, you might get a chance to play in the Grandmasters, the next tier of competition that Blizzard hasn't said much about yet. This announcement exemplifies the developing the esports models aimed towards more accessibility and opportunity.
LPL announces partnership with Nike: March 1st
The League of Legends Pro League (LPL) announced a massive partnership with Nike. The LPL is one of the 13 regional teams that supply the competition for global events like the League of Legends World Championship. The LOLEsports staff explain, in their announcement, "Starting this year, Nike will provide apparel and footwear for all 16 teams of the LPL. As part of the agreement, Nike will continue to explore new ways to serve esport athletes through research and customized physical training programs. LPL athletes will be equipped with an all-new team kit ahead of the 2019 World Championships. LPL fans also will be able to get in on the action with a full range of new fan gear." This enormous commitment from Nike shows the state of esports as a whole, and especially in relation to traditional sports. Esports is growing at such a fast rate, and is reaching such renown that some of the largest athletic companies in the world are getting involved-- Champion, Adidas, and now Nike have all made significant deals within the esports industry, and that's just the beginning.
Comcast Spectator and SK Telecom, two hugely successful telecommunication companies, already separately owned prestigious esports teams across League of Legends, Overwatch, and more but will now combine their efforts to become T1 Entertainment and Sports, compounding their reach and competitiveness. This international cooperation between the American and South Korean companies shows how lucrative esports can be around the world and also hints towards the shared interest we have that know no cartographic boundaries.
Newzoo predicts Esports industry breaks $1 billion this year: February 12th/27th
Newzoo, "The Global Leader in Games and Esports Analytics" as their website claims, released a report about a month ago explaining how revenue for the global esports market will exceed $1 billion this year, reaching $1.1 billion. North America will retain the largest market, "boasting revenues of $401.9 million." This will be quite the milestone for esports, and also a great line if anyone ever tells you esports isn't a legitimate industry. There is a lot of other really interesting information in the report which I've linked above and feel free to check out this Business Insider breakdown of the report from which I learned of Newzoo.
ESPN Events announced yesterday that they would show "a further commitment into the world of esports with the first-ever ESPN Collegiate Esports Championship (CEC)." ESPN has teamed up with Tespa and Collegiate Star League, the two leading collegiate esport organizers, to have hundreds of North American schools qualify and compete at a massive LAN event in Houston this May. "Overwatch, Street Fighter™ V: Arcade Edition, Hearthstone, StarCraft II and Heroes of the Storm are among the first games to be announced as a part of the LAN Championship event." This tournament, bringing competitive collegiate esports to a big stage, and having ESPN invest so forwardly in the world of esports will further legitimize the industry to those who haven't yet come to know and love esports in the same way they do traditional sports-- and hopefully this added accessibility will bring viewers who are new to sports and gaming altogether.
Thanks for choosing DatConvo for your news and updates surrounding gaming and esports! In the next article I will be voicing my thoughts on gaming culture and how it relates to gamer/developer relations, in particular, BioWare's Anthem.