Publishers are also struggling to recoup their investment in esports. Chris Greeley, director of esports for Riot Games, told WIRED that Riot is “getting close to balance” in his esports efforts. And in a results document revealed in its lawsuit against Apple last week, Epic Games say it overestimated his esports opportunities by $ 154 million in 2019, the year he won his $ 30 million cash prize Fortnite World Cup.
Greeley says esports is not a stretched bubble ready to burst. However, he says, “I think you’re going to see a bunch of people who pivot, change direction, or change strategy to keep moving forward, as any startup industry tends to do.”
Esports organizations typically associated with tournaments are now signing more deals with content creators. (Several top teams declined to comment on this via email.) Instead of participating in a Apex Legends or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive list, these gaming influencers are broadcasting on Twitch or YouTube, sometimes just by chatting with fans and sometimes playing high profile games. As part of their partnership agreements, teams help manage these players’ activities, facilitate sponsorship deals, and even provide salaries.
Having a celebrity list on YouTube or Twitch can help teams attract more referral deals, which always represent a significant portion of their bottom line. Influencers tend to have a larger and more engaged audience than individual athletes, entire teams, and even entire tournaments. A Call of Duty A league tournament might draw 70,000 players, but a top streamer like Timothy “TimTheTatMan” Betar is getting closer to that every day. For brands that determine where to put their money, these types of metrics make it easier to choose.
“It’s all about return on investment,” says Andy Paul, CEO of Corsair. “What we’ve seen with esports so far is that there are no clear winners. There is still a lot of unsubscribing. Corsair’s marketing budget has increased recently, and Paul says his team is spending a higher percentage on influencers compared to esports teams. This represents a change in Corsair’s sponsorship strategy, from esports to content creation. Content creators are more charismatic, easier to identify. “Once you have an emotional connection with someone, you’re going to trust them when they say, ‘I checked that microphone, and it sounds really good. Corsair keyboard is a lot of exposure for the company. Below the feed there is an affiliate link. During an esports tournament, it’s harder for companies like Corsair to measure how many times the camera goes over a sponsored player’s helmet.
Publishers – for whom e-sport is, at its core, a marketing exercise– also have a lot to gain from an industry trend towards video game celebrities. Both Fortnite publisher Epic Games and Riot, with its new shooter Valuing, take a more influencer-focused approach to esports. FortniteThe 2020 Creator Cup rewarded viewers for cheering on and watching their Twitch streamer of their choice. For Valuing, which does not yet have a franchise league, Riot Games supports third-party tournaments for content creators and esports stars. The publisher also hosts viewing nights, with top-tier streamers like Tyler “Ninja” Blevins and Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek broadcasting tournaments on their own streams and watching them with their fans (and sometimes gaining more viewers than the mainstream). Riot’s own channel). Riot has repeatedly picked top streamers over esports pros as co-streamers.
“People on the content creator side attract audiences that otherwise wouldn’t be able to watch Valuing»Says Greeley.
For esports athletes, the change comes with certain risks. While influencers can help esports attract more sponsors and viewers, some teams are ditching their listings entirely for popular games as their content creator bank swells. And not all pro gamers who want to can switch to streaming on their own, as Håkansson did a few years ago. Succeeding on Twitch or YouTube requires more than head opponents. You need a certain charisma to retain live audiences when there are so many other options available. “They’re just like different careers, even though basically the two still play video games,” says UTA’s Lau.