FIFA's eSports Future Is Via Pro Teams

FIFA'S ESPORTS FUTURE IS VIA PRO TEAMS

FIFA 17 Regional Final (Photo: EA Sports)

FIFA 17 Regional Final (Photo: EA Sports)

TNL Take: This past year, EA Sports made serious strides with their first real full season of FIFA eSports under their Competitive Gaming Division by announcing $1.3M in prize pools (including travel/expenses).

The FIFA 17 Regionals from Paris became the 1st ever eSports program shown on ESPN's flagship channel garnering 110,000 viewers - considering it was tape delayed and shown at 6PM on Super Bowl Sunday.

TNL Infographic 040: 2017 eSports TV Ratings (Infographic: The Next Level)

TNL Infographic 040: 2017 eSports TV Ratings (Infographic: The Next Level)

At EA Play last week - EA's coming out party the weekend prior to the start of E3 - EA Sports announced some pretty big changes for FIFA 18 with the last 2 being the most crucial:

 

  • A partnership between EA and FIFA launching in Fall of this year for a year long competitive infrastructure
  • Real teams sponsoring athletes via official tournaments
  • An All-Star tournament featuring athletes signed to teams

 

FIFA 18's Grand New Plans (Photo: EA Sports)

FIFA 18's Grand New Plans (Photo: EA Sports)

This shouldn't be surprising based on EA's previous moves in the space:

 

AUGUST 2016: PSV EINDHOVEN

PSV Players Playing FIFA (Photo: PSV Eindhoven)

PSV Players Playing FIFA (Photo: PSV Eindhoven)

Eredivisie team PSV Eindhoven became the first Dutch team to become involved with eSports bypassing the "normal" route of sponsoring an athlete directly, PSV held an EA Sports FIFA 17 tournament to determine their player.

 

Further, at the time I mentioned this could be a hint of things to come:

The Next Level YYY (Photo: The Next Level)

The Next Level YYY (Photo: The Next Level)

 

JANUARY 2017: DUTCH E-DIVISIE LEAGUE

Dutch FIFA eSports League (Photo: Eredivisie)

Dutch FIFA eSports League (Photo: Eredivisie)

The E-Divisie is a partnership between Dutch football league Eredivisie, Endemol Shine Netherlands and EA Sports. The games are broadcast on Twitch, YouTube and TV via Fox Sports.

Each of the club athletes competed in 17 rounds of games of FIFA 17 Ultimate Team which determined the E-Divisie Champion, but also which club would represent Netherlands at the European level and a chance to move onto a World Championships.

Again at this time I mentioned a potential future with EA Sports driving the selection process:

The Next Level YYY (Photo: The Next Level)

The Next Level YYY (Photo: The Next Level)

This is a no brainer for EA Sports but 2 large questions remain.

 

/01 WHICH CLUBS WILL BE INVOLVED?

EA Sports did not mention which clubs would be participating at launch and did not respond when reached out for comment.  

I'd venture that it will be primarily European teams and if I had to bet on 1 club being involved: Bayern Munich. 

 

/02 IS THIS THE BEST ROUTE FOR CLUBS?

From EA's perspective, it makes absolute business sense to grab as much control over the eSports infrastructure as you can, especially when pro teams are still so very uneducated about the space. 

 

But does it make the most sense for the pro teams?

 

Here's the reason: Follow any FIFA athlete on Twitter and you will see constant gripes about the lagging, the buggy nature of the game or disconnecting before a loss - to be fair, it's common across many eSports titles. 

As the game changes every year, the previous year's "best" player may not be the current years  top rated player, which means a relative unknown could win and become a clubs official player.

Sticking with the Bayern Munich example, would the club rather find a FIFA athlete via this process with 24 Twitter followers or find someone that is both a top player, produces content and has a large social following across a variety of media?

Time will tell which soccer clubs will be most successful but you can definitely be assured of this:

 

EA NFL Madden is next.


ICYMI, here's TNL eSports Guest Podcast 005 with Paris St-Germain Head of eSports, Bora "Yellowstar" Kim.

11 Of The 17 NBA 2K eLeague Teams Have Made eSports Investments

11 OF THE 17 NBA 2K ELEAGUE TEAMS HAVE MADE ESPORTS INVESTMENTS

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Take Two CEO Strauss Zelnick Announce NBA 2K eLeague (Photo: NBA/Take Two)

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Take Two CEO Strauss Zelnick Announce NBA 2K eLeague (Photo: NBA/Take Two)

TNL Infographic 035: 17 Teams In NBA 2K's eLeague (Infographic: The Next Level/Jordan Fragen)

TNL Infographic 035: 17 Teams In NBA 2K's eLeague (Infographic: The Next Level/Jordan Fragen)

What’s interesting – any maybe not surprising – is that 11 of the 17 teams have previously been linked to eSports investment:

TEAMS WITH PREVIOUS ESPORTS INVESTMENT

  • Boston Celtics
  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Dallas Mavericks
  • Golden State Warriors
  • Memphis Grizzlies
  • Miami Heat
  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • New York Knicks
  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • Sacramento Kings
  • Washington Wizards

TEAMS WITH NO ESPORTS INVESTMENT

    • Orlando Magic*
    • Detroit Pistons
    • Indiana Pacers
    • Portland Trail Blazers
    • Toronto Raptors
    • Utah Jazz

    (Shaq, who is a Co-owner of NRG eSports, played for the Orlando Magic)

    Here’s how it breaks down:

     

    /01 SACRAMENTO KINGS

    • ANDY MILLER AND MIKE MASTROV, CO-OWNERS OF THE KINGS
    • CO-FOUNDERS OF NRG ESPORTS

    NRG have been one of the most involved teams in eSports sporting teams or athletes in ~10 games, recently signed an innovative deal with Washington DC’s Convention and Sports Authority and their new Golden1 Center was equipped with the best technology to support eSports events which is lacking in many venues today.

     

    /02 PHILADELPHIA 76'ERS

    The 76’ers have been one of the most innovative teams in the NBA, signing the 1st uniform Brand sponsorship with Stubhub, YYYYY VR and made a big splash by investing in not just 1, but 2 eSports teams.

     

    /03 BOSTON CELTICS

    • CELTICS FORWARD, JONAS JEREBKO
    • JIM PALLOTTA, RAPTOR GROUP
    • RICK FOX, FOUNDER ECHO FOX

    Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko joined the continued trend of current or former NBA players investing in eSports by buying team Renegades.  Jim Pallotta’s Raptor Group, which owns the Boston Celtics, invested in top eSports team Fnatic in their latest $7M funding found.  Ex-Celtic Rick Fox is also the founder of active eSports team Echo Fox.

     

    /04 MIAMI HEAT

    The Miami Heat acquired a controlling stake in team Misfits and became the 2nd team after the 76’ers to fully integrate the team with their traditional team.  What that means is that that all business operations – sponsorships, merchandise, marketing, etc. – will be handled by the Pro team’s front office which has the experience and manpower to make non-prize money revenue much bigger

     

    /05 GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

    • VIA AXIOMATIC INVESTMENT IN TEAM LIQUID
    • PETER GUBER, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN OF THE WARRIORS
    • CHAMATH PALIHAPITIYA, CO-OWNER OF THE WARRIORS

    The Warriors have invested in 2 separate ways: Peter Guber, Co-Executive Chairman of the Warriors, is part of axiomatic, the super group of investors which bought eSports group Team Liquid.  Warriors Co-Owner Chamath Palihapitiya was also part of a group which invested in eSports team Cloud 9.

     

    /06 CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

    • DAN GILBERT, OWNER OF THE CAVALIERS
    • ANDREW BOGUT, EX-CAVALIER

    While not directly through the Cavaliers, via Dan Gilbert’s sports/tech investment fund Courtside Ventures, had invested in Beam, a live-streaming service which was acquired by Microsoft. Ex-Cavalier Andrew Bogut – who also played for the Warriors and Bucks - was involved in the Cloud 9 investment.

     

    /07 MILWAUKEE BUCKS

    • WESLEY EDENS, CO-OWNER OF THE BUCKS

    Bought the League of Legends Challenger Slot and the contracts of 4 players from Cloud 9 for $2.5M.

     

    /08 WASHINGTON WIZARDS

    • VIA AXIOMATIC INVESTMENT IN TEAM LIQUID
    • MONUMENTAL SPORTS, OWNERS OF THE WIZARDS

    Monumental Sports, who owns the Washington Wizards and many other sports franchises, is part of the axiomatic group which invested in Team Liquid.

     

    /09 MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

    • STEPHEN KAPLAN, CO-OWNER OF THE GRIZZLIES

    Grizzlies Co-Owner Stephen Kaplan invests in eSports team Immortals.

     

    /10 DALLAS MAVERICKS

    • MARK CUBAN, OWNER OF THE MAVERICS

    In the past year or so, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has invested in both Unikrn, which is an eSports wagering service and Sportsradar, a sports data services company which services eSports as well.

     

    11/ NY KNICKS

    • CARMELO ANTHONY, FORWARD FOR THE KNICKS

    Melo invested in eSports Daily Fantasy site Alphadraft – along with former NBA commissioner David Stern – which was acquired by Fanduel in 2015.

     

    Here’s the timeline of NBA team investments to date:

    TNL Infographic 027: NBA Team eSports Investment ((Infographic: The Next Level/Jordan Fragen)

    TNL Infographic 027: NBA Team eSports Investment ((Infographic: The Next Level/Jordan Fragen)

    In addition, a few other things stand out:

    • While the teams not participating weren’t that surprising, the biggest question is why one of the teams’ most involved in eSports did not participate: the Houston Rockets.

    GM Daryl Morey is intimately familiar with eSports having been on the board of Major League Gaming and believes the industry currently resembles “basketball in the 1950’s”.  Further, the Rockets were the first US Pro team to hire a Director of eSports Development.

     

     

    • Still no further details on the league structure, player payments, drafts, etc. – however that’s fairly quick progress considering the league was only announced a few months ago.

     

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    Now which US Pro Sports League will follow a similar structure next?