However, there is no escaping eSports and the impact it has made on the world so far. If this existed 15 years ago, I can easily say that I would have been very involved in the eSports community as either a player or I would have tailored my education down this route. Imagine where it will be 15 years from now!
About a year ago I re-discovered my love for video games mainly thanks to a franchise some of you may know called Overwatch. Overwatch has become a major hit for Blizzard and is a game that an average gamer would play, but maybe not competitively or professionally. I know I certainly wouldn’t have, but after realizing that teamwork is crucial for victory in this game, I became hooked immediately. This differentiator made me want to play even more and eventually give their version of competitive play a shot. Let’s just say; I have not put it down since.
After getting hooked on Overwatch, it peaked my interest in eSports as a whole. Since I come from a marketing/business background, I wanted to learn more about the industry and what steps it is taking to grow. After doing some research, I came across a few thoughts/ideas on how this industry can develop at a faster pace so it can become the behemoth it is meant to be.
Tournament Saturation & Overall Structure
Now there’s a solution I thought of that could help but would require a little bit of a revamp. What if there was a league created for each franchise similar to the ones you see in professional sports. When you look at the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL (a.k.a The Big Four as I call it) there is a similar structure to all of them that works. Each league has a set season that has standings. Each team plays each other in one way or another, and at the end of the season, the best teams face off in a playoff bracket. A structure like this builds rivalries, emotional attachment, and if you are ever so lucky, a championship to brag about. This type of drama and attachment is what hooks fans, die-hard or casual, and also helps create stability in an ever-changing landscape.
Now I know LoL (League of Legends) has something similar to this which is a great start, but they can improve by adding more teams, and perhaps, a longer season. Other franchises can adopt a similar strategy as well while keeping the big tournaments that draw significant crowds and sells out arenas.
In the end, my main idea here is to create a league for each franchise that contains a season with teams in various states/regions, a playoff bracket for each, and continue to keep the major tournaments. In a way, you are combining what’s engaging about American professional sports, and what makes the European soccer tourneys fun to watch (think Champions League and the Euros).
Then if you want to get crazy, you can even start a minor league system to develop the next generation of professionals, but let’s start with baby steps here.
Where Are My Villains and Heroes?
However, we care about our teams and the decisions made that impact the team overall. On top of that, you have players whom people either love or hate with not much else in between. For anyone who grew up during the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry then you know all too well what I mean about this. As a Yankee fan, I despised the likes of Pedro Martinez, Josh Beckett, Manny Ramirez, and frankly, the entire roster. Feeling this way towards a team and its players are essential if you are trying to build a sport and rivalries that last.
Now I know that the die-hard followers know the players and maybe there is some drama they can attest to, but for a casual fan, I cannot find any. I believe that this is partly due to the coverage of eSports to date which is not getting much mainstream media coverage. There is an opportunity here for coverage, but again it will need to become a more regular thing.
I believe that if you give the fans their versions of heroes (Derek Jeter) and villains (Big Papi), then you can create something special that will stand the test of time. Eventually, you will get to a point where the teams themselves will become heroes (2016 Chicago Cubs) or villains (2017 Golden State Warriors).
Get With The Times and Cut The Cord
In my opinion, the franchises and leagues should focus their efforts on social media and live streaming where the fans are. Now, this sounds contradictory to my previous statements of making it mainstream, however, there are plenty examples of people (millennials) who tune into live streaming events on their phone while scrolling through social media versus finding it on cable. It is much more likely that millennials would tune into matches online rather than going out of their way to turn on the proper TV channel. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with dual-casting if you can make it happen.
The organizers of the tournaments have already begun taking advantage of this. However, if they are willing to switch things up a bit and go with a consolidated league format for each franchise, then you can really start printing money. You can have on air sponsorships, online takeovers of live streams, and everything else under the sun that a marketer can come up with on a daily basis. The best way to engage with this young audience is not with your standard banner ads or TV commercials that they are not paying attention to. Instead, you will have to get creative with fun and engaging sponsorships.
Lastly, giving us standard leagues with heroes and villains being covered by a strong media presence, will help lead to more revenue for all, and a whole lot more fun for all of the fans.