MLS and EA Sports Launch Esports League eMLS

TNL Take: Welcome to the next round of sports leagues looking to integrate esports.

On Friday, Major League Soccer and EA Sports announced a partnership to form the eMLS, with 19 of the 23 MLS Clubs participating. If this sounds similar to NBA 2K League - it is - in a good way.

MLS now joins other traditional sports leagues like France's eLeague 1 and the Dutch Eredivisie which have both incorporated esports.

The 19 clubs that will participate in the inaugural season of the eMLS include: 

Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew SC, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy, Minnesota United FC, Montreal Impact, New England Revolution, New York City FC, New York Red Bulls, Orlando City SC, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC, Sporting Kansas City, Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

19 of the 23 Clubs in the eMLS (Photo: MLS)

19 of the 23 Clubs in the eMLS (Photo: MLS)

Even more interesting is that each eMLS club will only sponsor one Pro to represent the organization. While the announcement was fairly sparse on the operations of the league it leaves some open questions currently which will  be taken care of by launch.

What about the other 4 teams?

It's unsure why 4 of the clubs would not participate as this would have provided full participation of MLS teams similar to other national leagues.

How will the Pro's be selected?

While the NBA 2K League has a uniform set of rules on drafting, becoming part of the team, etc., eMLS teams are allowed their own process for selecting their representative. For example, instead of competing in the club's qualifying tournament, a team can sign their own FIFA Pro and field them for eMLS like the New York Red Bulls.

NY Red Bulls FIFA Pro Mike Labelle (Photo: NY Post)

NY Red Bulls FIFA Pro Mike Labelle (Photo: NY Post)

How will the Pro's be paid?

Still TBD but would expect a minimum yearly commitment ala NBA 2K League.

What console will they be playing on?

Still TBD as well.

What's very unique is that all of FIFA 18 esports - whether another national league or a 3rd party event (ESL/Gfnity) - will now feed directly into the FIFA eWorld Cup. This is a fantastic move by EA Sports and the MLS as every competitive aspect funnels into the finals.

This announcement also comes on the heels of MLS's announcement that they were looking for an esports Manager and can imagine this would fall under their purview.

The first eMLS event, the eMLS Cup, will take place during PAX East 2018 in April with the winner earning a guaranteed playoff spot.

Amazon + NFL + Twitch + Esports = The Opportunity

AMAZON + NFL + TWITCH + ESPORTS = THE OPPORTUNITY

Last Week The NFL Thursday Game Was On Twitch (Photo: EA Sports)

Last Week The NFL Thursday Game Was On Twitch (Photo: EA Sports)

TNL Take: If you follow me on Twitter you can easily see my Amazon obsession. In the ever changing retail and digital landscape, either you're with Amazon or good luck.

This past Thursday saw a unique collaboration between the NFL and Amazon owned Twitch - not the NFL Amazon Video Thursday night deal but the ability to watch the Falcons vs. Saints game on Twitch for free.

Before we get into the performance, a quick recap of what's been covered already:

-Amazon's Twitch Prime Move Is Genius

-EA Madden, NFL, Amazon, Mobile And ESports

-Amazon + Ticketing + ESports = Opportunity

 

So what's this all mean?

 

Here are a few ways it ties together:

 

/01 IN GAME CONTENT

Twitch Prime In Game Content (Photo: Amazon)

Twitch Prime In Game Content (Photo: Amazon)

One of the genius elements of Twitch Prime is getting exclusive in game content like Madden card packs on a weekly basis. However as this is based on Amazon Video's deal there isn't the true in game content integration that Twitch has.

Until now.

I'd be surprised if Amazon would move their NFL content tied to Amazon Video off the platform onto Twitch for free but it does give a peek into what could work for future seasons.

 

/02 TICKETING

Ticket Fairy Powers TwitchCon 2017 Tickets (Photo: Twitch)

Ticket Fairy Powers TwitchCon 2017 Tickets (Photo: Twitch)

I still believe that Amazon will make a move into the ticketing vertical as it's another area ripe for disruption. In fact, as called out previously, Twitch did use the Ticket Fairy for TwitchCon 2017 tickets.

Purchase an NFL Ticket and get Prime for 6 months for free?

Buy an NFL Ticket and get exclusive in game content?

NFL Ticket purchase via Amazon gives you NFL Thursday night access for Free?

There are many ways this can play out.

 

/03 MERCHANDISING

NFL Merchandise On Amazon (Photo: Amazon)

NFL Merchandise On Amazon (Photo: Amazon)

Amazon is the #1 US online retailer and Top 10 overall retailer in the world. 1-hour Amazon Prime delivery is magic. Now combine this with the points above. 

Buy Amazon NFL Merchandise for exclusive in game content?

Purchase Amazon NFL Merchandise and then receive discount on NFL tickets?

Many more opportunities here as well.

 

/04 ESPORTS

All of this can be tied together for esports as well. While the examples above can drive engagement for Madden competitive gaming, this could easily translate to other titles and genre's.

Amazon recently snapped up the rights to the US Open in the UK and further adds fuel to the speculation that they will be bidding for English Premier League rights as well. FIFA esports anyone?

While there's no league affiliation, the integration of in game content, merchandising and events could translate to Amazon's suite of games to be released from their game studios.

So how did the first NFL game on Twitch perform? 

Not so well with ~10K Average Concurrent Viewership for the game.

For perspective, the Madden NFL Club Championship with the Miami Dolphins drew about 1/3 of that viewership...for esports. More than likely it had to with little promotion or marketing vs. the potential lack of audience.

 

While it may seem that the whole is greater than sum of its parts, this will still require the blessing of any sports league for full integration.

Hopefully that won't be an obstacle.

eSports Week In Review | Pro Sports Investment Pours In, Twitch Top 10, Podcast 031

ESPORTS WEEK IN REVIEW | PRO SPORTS INVESTMENT POURS IN, TWITCH TOP 10, PODCAST 031

eSports Week In Review | Week of October 16th (Photo: Riot Games)

eSports Week In Review | Week of October 16th (Photo: Riot Games)

Exclusive: Underworld eSports Raises Up To $10M From Grizzlies Kaplan, Survivor's Dr. Zahalsky (Photo: The Next Level)

Exclusive: Underworld eSports Raises Up To $10M From Grizzlies Kaplan, Survivor's Dr. Zahalsky (Photo: The Next Level)



TUESDAY 10/17

The Next Level was off



WEDNESDAY 10/18

TNL eSports Podcast 031: Chuboi, FIFA Host and Streamer

TNL eSports Podcast 031: Chuboi, FIFA Host and Streamer (Photo: The Next Level)

TNL eSports Podcast 031: Chuboi, FIFA Host and Streamer (Photo: The Next Level)

2017 League of Legend's World Championship (Photo: Riot Games)

2017 League of Legend's World Championship (Photo: Riot Games)

Weekly Twitch Top 10 (Graphic: Waypoint Media)

Weekly Twitch Top 10 (Graphic: Waypoint Media)

 

Have a great weekend!

EA Madden, NFL, Amazon, Mobile and eSports

EA MADDEN, NFL, AMAZON, MOBILE AND ESPORTS

EA Madden, NFL, Amazon, Mobile and eSports (Graphic: The Next Level)

EA Madden, NFL, Amazon, Mobile and eSports (Graphic: The Next Level)

EA Madden NFL Year over Year Comparison (Infographic: The Next Level)

EA Madden NFL Year over Year Comparison (Infographic: The Next Level)

This is one of three big changes to EA's Club Series with NFL pro teams. While last year started with 8 - Bills, Jaguars, Chiefs, Vikings, Patriots, Eagles, Steelers and the 49ers - this year, it expands to all 32 NFL teams.

 

/02 PRIZE POOL

EA 2017 Club Series Champion Prize (Photo: EA Sports)

EA 2017 Club Series Champion Prize (Photo: EA Sports)

The second big change is the amount of money on the line. Last year's 8 total events were for $10K each along with the Club Finals with a $50K prize pool, bringing 2017's total to ~$130K.

Madden 18's Club Championship total prize pool of $400K+ more than triples last year's total...with a catch.

 

/03 STRUCTURE

In addition to the Club Series Finals being held at Pro Bowl Experience in Orlando, the winner will also receive 2 tickets to Super Bowl LII - another sign of the NFL's involvement.

 

 

/04 TWITCH PRIME

Now is where things start to get really fun.

This past Saturday morning  I found something very interesting posted and tweeted the following:

EA Madden NFL 18 and Twitch Prime Integration (Photo: LinkedIn)

EA Madden NFL 18 and Twitch Prime Integration (Photo: LinkedIn)

The reception from the community was overwhelmingly positive and a YouTube video made just around my Tweet has 20,000+ views currently:

Mr.GoldenMut YouTube Video (Photo: YouTube)

Mr.GoldenMut YouTube Video (Photo: YouTube)

Twitch Prime and EA Madden NFL 18 Promotion (Photo: Twitch)

Twitch Prime and EA Madden NFL 18 Promotion (Photo: Twitch)

I've talked plenty about how Twitch Prime is genius and the ability to lure in publishers is so critical and this is another example.

 

/05 AMAZON'S NFL PROGRAMMING

The Patriots Winning Another Super Bowl (Photo: USA Today. Mark J. Rebilas)

The Patriots Winning Another Super Bowl (Photo: USA Today. Mark J. Rebilas)

In April, Twitch owner Amazon signed a partnership with the NFL for $50M to stream 10 Thursday night games to Amazon Prime members.

Everything is about selling Amazon Prime. Everything is about selling Amazon Prime. Everything is about selling Amazon Prime.

If 500K people sign up for Amazon Prime to get access to the NFL content, Amazon breaks even on the media rights. Even if they don't, it's more marketing and programming for their content chest.

 

/06 MADDEN MOBILE

EA Madden NFL Mobile (Photo: EA Sports)

EA Madden NFL Mobile (Photo: EA Sports)

One of the least publicized success stories in the mobile gaming space is Madden Mobile. During the NFL season the game is consistently in the Top 10 grossing on the App Store.

Go ahead and check where it is right now.

Amazon has invested greatly with Vainglory and mobile eSports and there's further opportunity here as well.

 

/07 TICKETING

I covered this last week with Amazon's potential disruption of another industry - ticketing - and the huge eSports opportunity that it holds.

Now add NFL ticket purchases and all the additional value provided with the points above.

 

/08 NFL INVOLVEMENT

Don't discount the NFL finally getting into eSports and putting their name, marketing and executives behind this initiative.

The NFL is the 800-pound gorilla on top of the media and sports food chain.

 

THE REAL DEAL

 

It's great to see the largest and most popular US sports league jump into the eSports pool.

Now add in cross promotion between EA Madden, watching Thursday NFL games on Amazon, Twitch Prime integration, Mobile, the NFL's marketing machine and the vision starts to emerge.

 

But here's the reality.

 

/01 It’s nowhere close to what Activision-Blizzard is building with their Overwatch League, Riot Games’ North American League of Legends League or the upcoming NBA 2K ELEAGUE with more than half of the pro teams included.

For both the NFL and EA to emulate OWL, LOL, and NBA2KELEAGUE in such a short amount of time would have been a herculean task.  The information for the Madden 18 competitive season was released less than a week before the game launches.

 

/02 The total EA Madden NFL 18 prize pool increased from $1.000M to just $1.153M. EA should clear $750M+ in Ultimate Team earnings from primarily FIFA and Madden this year with continued growth.

Even the Club Series total while seeming high at $400K is the total for 32 teams - when looked at on an individual basis it's also a slight increase over last years $10K prize pool each.

A slight prize pool increase and fewer Athletes being flown out to events - while Ultimate Team dollars continue to flow in.

 

/03 No details were revealed around either Digital or TV distribution but I'd be shocked if the Madden 18 Championships were not either on a Disney platform or The NFL Network.

 

04/ Brands - where are they?

While last years Club Series did have brands present like Gillette and the Patriots, these deals were either added value or for very little revenue.

 

/05 This is the biggest difference between the 3 major upcoming eSports leagues and what European soccer teams are doing with their investment.

While the winners get a much larger prize pool, entry to the Madden 18 Championships and a slew of benefits, what happens with “NFL Club Winner” after this?

This program isn’t like being officially sponsored by a Paris St. Germain, which has many FIFA Athletes represent the club and provide the “3 M’s Of Why Pro Sports Teams Invest In eSports”™ - Marketing, Merchandising and Monetization.

 

Whichever NFL pro team does decide to become the innovator and begin emulating their European counterparts will start seeing the ROI with real investment in the eSports space much  more quickly than the next teams that will quickly follow suit.