Weekly eSports business review


Last time out we discussed the benefits of relegation and promotion to forthcoming eSport leagues, with references to ‘the richest game in the world’, which is the final playoff game to see which is the last team making it into the English Premier League. Since then, an example from eSports has come up, rather conveniently, showing what the financial pressure on that sort of game can be like.

The owner of Team EnVyUs is one Mike “hastr0” Rufail, and this week he made some very interesting comments on the financial incentives for prioritising that competition. According to Rufail, his team’s promotion match was rewarding on a level that other games simply cannot hope to compete with, even at the top level.

“The internal economic impact of our promotion tournament match yesterday was huge indeed. So much more than any match in other esports,” said hastr0. “To put this into perspective, we could win 3 CSGO majors in a row and still not equal the gain (or mitigate potential loss) or our LCS spot.”

Now, the largest amount of money won at a single event in CS:GO is the $800k EnVyUs themselves took at WESG in China in 2016, with the ELEAGUE Major in January paying out $500k to Astralis, the champions there. That puts the value of a spot in the LCS at something around $1.5m on the conservative end, and over $2m potentially, and this is just for participating in the competition.

Rufail also had to answer some pretty amusing comments from fans that felt players were having to sacrifice their lives for this success, to which his reply was that they are all paid in the six figures and made the choice themselves. While it’s easy to just marvel at the money, that exchange also says a lot about the culture of eSports and the distance left to travel before we reach the level of professionalism seen in pro sports or other areas.

Now, it’s fair to point out that the money on the line is rarely the reason fans tune in, but at the same time this is a superb illustration of why protecting franchise teams and removing relegation can strip a really entertaining part of the competition away. Watching someone play for glory is compelling, but seeing elite pros fighting for their careers is a completely different thing, and has a pressure and tension like no other.


SK partner with Huawei for mobile eSports

We have a truly international flavour to the post this week, as the German-based team SK Gaming announced a sponsorship deal with Chinese tech firm Huawei. The move comes in the wake of the 2015 decision by the team to get involved with mobile gaming in competitive terms, most specifically Vainglory, and sees the team link up with Honor, a sub brand of the mobile giant.

The move is international because SK are a German team most famous for their Brazilian CounterStrike outfit, signing a deal with a massive Chinese firm, and really illustrates the scale of eSports in 2017. It also cements the organisation’s place in mobile gaming with the sort of partner you’d need to make an impact, and keeps Huawei in the scene following a difficult eSports beginning for them in the shape of Illuminar Gaming.


FC Lausanne sign eSports department

Elsewhere, another sports team jumps into eSport with FC Lausanne-Sport of the Swiss first division announcing they have incorporated multi-gaming organization Qualitas Helvetica into the club, and rebranded it to LS eSports. Lausanne are probably not the biggest team if we’re honest, or even the biggest in Switzerland when compared to the likes of Basel and so on, and this is something of a speculative move on their part.

That does make some sense though, especially when you consider Galatasaray reported a decent profit from their eSports division recently, in the region of $200k. It will also mean that, due in part to the fact they have absorbed an existing team rather than creating their own, that the club will compete in more traditionally successful games like CS and League, rather than the current route into the scene most have taken, via FIFA.


NYCFC sign FIFA player

Speaking of FIFA, Manchester City’s sister club New York City Football Club this week became the first to sign a FIFA player of the Major League Soccer clubs at least. It was reported in the ESports Observer this week that the club has announced the signing of Christopher Holly, a New York-based FIFA player, who will represent the team at the FIFA Ultimate Team Champions Season 2 Regional Finals in Vancouver on April 22 and beyond.

The move follows City’s own decision to sign a FIFA player last year in Kieran ‘Kez’ Brown, and came packaged in the usual language about engaging with a rapidly growing sector that must make players feel really valued, and not just like a speculative investment the club has made…either way, it will be interesting to see if FIFA itself can benefit from this level of investment, or if the likes of City will have to come toward the light a bit more before they get the eSports money.


Geico returns to ELEAGUE

Finally, it seems like not a week goes by where we don’t mention ELEAGUE, but that’s what happens when a new party makes a massive splash in a somewhat stagnant pool. The company behind the newest CS Major announced a renewal of their partnership with GEICO this week, that will see the company continue as ELEAGUE sponsors until at least the end of 2017.

When the firms first got together, the deal was reportedly worth around the $2m mark, and with ELEAGUE’s recent success it’s unlikely they are receiving less now, but the duration of the contract is also interesting. It may be that ELEAGUE were offered a far longer deal, but decided with the level of growth in the scene that getting tied into one price point could prove costly down the line. It might not, of course, but that would make sense, and ELEAGUE seem to make sensible decisions a lot of the time.





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