An Overview Of Console Esports - Sony

Industry Guest Post: Jonathan Pan is an Esports Instructor at the University of California, Irvine. He has over 13 years of experience in management, strategy, or business development roles across companies small and large. After serving as a Product Manager at Riot Games, he co-founded and served as CEO of Ember, an esports team. He has also delivered one of the most viewed TEDx talks on esports. 


In Part 1 we looked at mobile, a framework for analysis and Nintendo's esports strategy. Today we continue with Sony.

 

SONY

Sony doesn’t have a first-party game like Super Smash Bros or Splatoon 2 that they can build a competitive ecosystem around just yet. In the meantime, Sony’s esports strategy appears to be positioning itself around the most popular console franchise, Call of Duty, while making improvements in input devices and enabling tournament participation directly from the PlayStation 4 (PS4).

The Call of Duty franchise is widely acknowledged as one of the most recognizable esports to mainstream audiences. Starting in 2015, PS4 owners started getting timed exclusivity for Call of Duty DLCs. The Call of Duty World League, which started in 2016, is played on PS4. Sony announced in March that they will reorganize in an effort to focus more on first-party games. If this effort yields first-party games with esports potential, they may shift their esports strategy.

On the input device front, Sony has partnered with Razer and Nacon to create two pro controllers: the Razer Raiju and the Nacon Revolution. There are two reasons for creating these: 

First, console competitive gamers have needs that are more unique than the average console gamer. For example, Call of of Dutyplayers put their hand in a shape of claw in order to hit circle (crouch), move the right stick to aim and R2 to shoot all at the same time. However, pro controllers have input buttons on the back, so this allows them to map circle (crouch) to the back, so they can hold the controller normally without straining their hand.

Second, there is pressure from Microsoft and unlicensed third-party manufacturers such as Cinch and SCUF, who are modding PlayStation controllers. This helped push PlayStation to license pro controllers to stay competitive and to show an understanding of the competitive community’s needs.

On the platform services front, PS4 players can play in ESL tournaments directly from their PS4.

 

Tomorrow will continue with Microsoft's esports efforts.

Australia and Esports: Years Behind But The Potential To Innovate - Part 1

Industry Guest Post: Dave Harris has spent over 15 years in traditional sports with his last major role being General Manager at National Rugby League.  Dave is currently the Managing Director of Guinevere Capital Esports & Entertainment with a portfolio including LG Dire Wolves, Supa-Stellar, SCG Esports High Performance Centre and The Next Gamer.


Australia is known globally for its strong (sometimes obsessive) sporting culture but far less so when it comes to esports.  However, the same triggers that have propelled esports into the mainstream in regions such as North America started to occur in Australia in 2017.

 

TRADITIONAL SPORTS

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A major driver for legitimising esports is endorsement and investment from traditional sports.  Following Guinevere Capital investing in LG Dire Wolves in September 2016, 7 of the 8 League of Legends, Oceanic Pro League teams have now been bought out by groups with traditional sport and entertainment experience.

Australian Football League (AFL) – In early May 2017, the AFL (Australia’s largest professional sport) announced its interest in involvement in esports.  In mid-May, AFL team the Adelaide Crows became the first traditional sports team (after over 6 months researching the space) to acquire an esports team, buying Legacy Esports.  In December 2017, Essendon Bombers followed suit buying into Abyss Predator who had already been bought out by sports investment group ESE.

A-League (Soccer) – In August, Melbourne City (part of the City Football Group, along with New York City and Manchester City) announced the signing on their first FIFA esports player.  A full competition with 2 representatives from each A-League club has since been announced in December 2017.

Many more traditional sports teams are investigating ways to enter the esports space but it must be noted that Australia has one of the most congested traditional sports landscapes in the world and teams generally don’t have significant free cashflows or billionaire owners standing behind them.  The propositions to local sports teams inviting them to start their own esports franchises (as opposed to buying/partnering with existing esports organisations), do not appear to have yet hit the mark.

 

LIVE EVENTS

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Intel Extreme Masters Sydney – IEM Sydney in May 2017 was a game changer for Australian esports with 14,000 attendees at Qudos Bank Arena across the weekend and 8 million viewers online.  Attending a live event is often the turning point for non-endemic sponsors and other stakeholders to realise esports is a “real thing”.  The rowdy crowd mimicking (and potentially surpassing) a traditional sporting event achieved notoriety along with the iconic “shoey”.

Gfinity – Backed by Australian Stock Exchange listed company HT&E, the Gfinity Elite Series (based upon the Gfinity UK model) has been announced for 2018 with Alienware as presenting partner and a soon to be announced live venue in Sydney. 

 

TRADITIONAL BROADCASTERS

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SBS – Were the first Australian Free-To-Air channel to broadcast esports in 2016 with the IESF Word Championships Qualifiers

Ch 7 – Entered esports with their multi-channel platform screenPLAY in 2017 and it will be interesting to see how they refine their initial strategy in 2018

 

NON-ENDEMIC BRANDS

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St George Bank Have been at the forefront of major non-endemic brands entering the Australian Esports market.  Initially through association with the CS:GO Zen League, they have since partnered with Channel 7 and their gaming/esports property screenPlay.

McDonald’s – The first Quick Service Restaurant to come into the esports space through the StarCraft 2 World Championship Series and the Throwdown Rocket League OCE Championship 

Hungry Jacks – Just announced as the Presenting Partner of the League of Legends, Oceanic Pro League this is one of if not the biggest deals in Australian esports and will be integrated across the competition and platforms which is aiming to have  lighter, fun theme this year.  For those unaware, Hungry Jack’s is the Australian version of Burger King. 

 

Part 2 will focus on both the challenges and opportunity that Australia has in esports.

Facebook's Exclusive ESL Deal Is About Media Rights

TNL Take: Going back to June 2016, we've said the biggest threat to Twitch in live esports was Facebook instead of YouTube. We even analyzed Youtube and Twitch directly stating the formers dominance in all things VOD.

Since Facebook entered the esports space, they've done a slew of content deals including:

That's plenty of inroads over the past 18 months.

Now Facebook is stepping it up further with another exclusive partnership with ESL - this time bringing content that previously lived on YouTube. The partnership includes:

  • ESL One and CS:GO Pro League, which begins in February and an exclusive for 4 seasons till December 2019
  • The first event will be ESL One Genting 2018 that begins this week
  • Other events include ESL One Katowice 2018 and ESL One Cologne 2018 
  • ESL will also produce a weekly show for "Facebook Watch"

 

Let's be clear, this deal is primarily about 1 thing: Minimum Guarantee for broadcast rights that Facebook would pay ESL. While probably nowhere close to BAMTech/Riot Games ($40M+/year) or the reported Overwatch League figure ($45M/year), it's enough that would warrant any drop in viewership or ad revenue. Facebook even recently announced the hiring of Eurosport head Peter Hutton to spearhead their sports rights initiative.

 

What else can Facebook bring to the table that helps ESL?

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/01 SCALE: Facebook hit 2 Billion monthly users by the end of Q2 2017. Over half of those users are daily. Which also leads to...

/02 MOBILE: 85% of Facebook's revenues comes from Mobile. As the rest of the world comes online, this is how they're going to access content - not via a PC or console. 

/03 MONETIZATION: Ads, Donations, Subscriptions, Virtual Currency, Sponsorships, Influencer Campaigns - the list goes on.

/04 VR: As VR eventually gathers more audience and others are trying to build VR platforms on top of Twitch or create separate ones, Facebook already has the hardware end with Oculus. From both playing and viewing, the experience potential is endless.

/05 Facebook Watch: Facebook is clearly trying to get as much content for Facebook Watch as possible. Now Facebook Watch allows you to view together with your friends - the social glue that allows engagement with your followers vs. a firehose of viewers,

 

While the viewership numbers may not be Twitch/YouTube levels at the beginning, there is more to this deal than viewership.

Esports Performing Well On Twitter

TNL Take: It's been over 18 months since we predicted Twitter entering the esports space. Since then Twitter made a large push with ESL, Dreamhack and Intel Extreme Masters in March of last year.

How did they perform?

Very well actually according to data released by Twitter. Of the Top 10 live streamed events in 2017, 3 of them were esports related and considering the Top 2 were related to the US and UK elections; they could have ranked higher. With how much live streamed content Twitter broadcast, 3 in the Top 10 is impressive.

2017 Top Twitter Live Video Events (Photo: Twitter)

2017 Top Twitter Live Video Events (Photo: Twitter)

Twitter also quietly signed a deal last September with Riot Games to become Twitter Australia’s partner with League of Legends.  

The partnership saw 2 live streams for League of Origin and the Oceanic Premier League Grand Finals, as well as 10 live broadcasts via Periscope Producer. 

Why does esports work well on Twitter?

As expected, esports skews younger which works well with Twitter's audience consumption of sports events. Twitter has done deals with everyone from the NFL, MLB to the PGA and NASCAR.

The esports audience - from teams, pros to the viewers - use Twitter extensively. One of the biggest audience drivers to Twitch comes from Twitter; it's why you see those promoting a Twitch stream is live primarily use Twitter as their current social platform of choice.

For myself, Twitter chat is also an "easier" experience than Twitch chat. Based on the algorithm, I see tweets first from those I follow/follow me and those in my social graph. As the chat is built around tweets, it makes it easier to follow the conversation than a firehose of emotes. 

Laura Froelich, Twitter's Global Head of Sports Partnerships, told SportTechie a key stat last month: The Halo world championship was livestreamed on Twitter, Facebook and Twitch; with a total audience of 13 million - of which 10.2 million came from Twitter. 

Some further stats would provide greater insight but there's a clearly appetite for esports content on Twitter's platform.

What does 2018 have in store for Twitter?

Considering how much of Twitter's audience overlaps with esports, coupled with last year's live video performance, expect more partnerships for this year. While the majority of Twitter's esports broadcasts have not been exclusive to the platform - you may see one in 2018.