The Evil Geniuses took the top prize in DOTA 2’s “The International” 2015 – $6.6 million. Meanwhile in Pro-Golf, Jordan Spieth brought home $1.8 million for winning The Masters.
Metagaming is basically using “real world knowledge” for in-game benefits to include such things as raid strategies, making in-game money, game add-ons to improve efficiency, etc. Metagaming is natural, logical, exceedingly common, perhaps unavoidable, but only really discouraged in the old-school roleplaying game genre.
Mega Metagaming, as I’ve coined the term, makes use of “real world knowledge” for in-game and real-world benefit: real money, notoriety and influence in addition to in-game benefits. It is also very common, but still with considerable untapped potential. Online gaming is an ever-evolving “market” wherein eSports is but one component; albeit the largest and most lucrative, presently.
The Monetization of eSports
The prize pool of The International 2015 – the fifth DOTA 2 championship tournament amounted to $18 million dollars. Compare this to Pro-Golf’s Master’s Tournament for 2015 where the prize pool topped $10 million, for the first time ever. Going further, we can look at the payouts:
- Evil Geniuses – $6.6 million
- CDEC Gaming – $2.8 million
- LGD Gaming – $2.2 million
- Jordan Spieth – $1.8 million
- Phil Mickelson – $880 thousand
- Justin Rose – $880 thousand
Call of Duty, League of Legends, Turbo-Racing, Starcraft 2, Counter-Strike, World of Tanks and countless other games have also had tournaments with high-stakes prize payouts. This is not limited just to games, either. In 2013, Kapitall, a company oriented to investor education offered $100,000 as the top prize for its Market Tournament.
Behind the Scenes
There are a lot of people engaged involved in a lot work behind the scenes in making these tournaments happen. The creation of a professional eSports Team to compete for millions of dollars is similar to everything that goes into forming, managing, training and financing a real-world sports team.
Beyond the eSports teams, someone has to organize the tournaments, coordinate the technical and streaming/television components, create the web sites, sign the sponsors, conduct the marketing and advertising, get the vendors to sell burgers and pizza to thousands of people attending the events – just to support the tournaments.
Tournaments represent a fairly small portion of the collective gaming ecosystem. There is much more to gaming than tournaments. There are many opportunities to make money from gaming the more one understands the broader gaming ecosystem. That’s not to say that they are easy or as simple as getting paid to play games.
Guilds and More
In the lead up to this article, I addressed how to make a great gaming guild. At its simplest, a gaming guild is a group of players who cooperate toward common goals (like Raiding, Crafting, Roleplaying, etc.).
The Syndicate is the best example of a gaming guild that evolved into something far more than a guild. With over a 19 year history playing games, The Syndicate has an influence on game developers (having several in its own ranks) – as they specialize in game and system testing, strategy guide writing, consulting and feedback.
That entails a lot of hard work – but it is work that would not be possible without “a game” or game developers wanting their services.
But, just as there are gaming guilds there are niche markets to go with them. Gamerlaunch.com and guildportal.com specialize in providing guild web sites. The monetization components here include not just web site hosting, but advertising, affiliate programs, sometimes gaming guides, and app development of their own. There remains plenty of room for localized expansion (by country, language and even by game genre).
On top of this, there are game review sites, magazine and video channels on YouTube – all of which can have an influence on a game’s development and player community, too. What developers and players should know by now quite well is that game reviews can and do have a significant impact on the life of the game. While written for developers, an earlier post on “Super Users” would also be useful for gamers aspiring to get more from their gaming activity or seriously interested in Mega Metagaming.
Reselling in-game goods and currency for real money is, if not illegal, against the terms and conditions of most games. I don’t want to get into this too deep here as it is a topic of its own.
More and more game developers are experimenting with a variety of currency conversion models to address a wide range of issues to include making it possible for “free to play” gamers being able to access premium content. Others, like Entropia Universe actually do have a real to virtual conversion model.
It is also appropriate to note here that both Congress and the Internal Revenue Service of the United States has examined taxing MMO-derived income. Leastwise, there are many, many issues complicating the entire real vs. virtual goods and currencies exchange to warrant a separate examination.
With that discussion and perhaps as an expansion upon it is the future of digital currencies, in general.
Nevertheless, there are games that do permit you to plunder your way to enough in-game currency that you can swap it with the game developer for “real game time” – i.e. their paid subscription rate and other premium content. Having a guild – a group of people to help you with that brings advantages for everyone in the guild.
Games as Tools for Education and Professional Training
This is a big pot of stew waiting for more and more people to stir it. As the classroom itself becomes ever more digital, we will see “games” adapted for additional purposes. It is an old concept, in fact, going back to the old 1983 movie “Wargames” with Matthew Broderick.
There’s the obvious correlation that when forming a professional eSports Team, some will employ others to provide professional training. As computer games in general are becoming increasingly realistic, they begin to provide professionals low-cost, convenient access to hands-on application and training in realistic environments not likely to be found elsewhere. This includes military training where it can be extremely expensive, is not always convenient and can have broader implications (real or imagined) in live training exercises.
In this direction, we might also look at wargaming (conflict simulation) as it takes place at King’s College London, quite possibly the most prestigious wargaming environment in the world. One might even say that’s “very old school” – compared to what is available today, even with conventional smart phones.
Over the Top?
Certainly, some will assert that elements of this article are somewhat “over the top” – that it is improbable that end users, people who play games, may earn anything like a living wage doing so. A look at the past and present, however, points to that being an inevitable outcome in the not too distant future.
The core catalyst is the increasing affordability and availability of smart phones, globally. The electronic game industry can be traced back to arcade games of the late 1970’s into the 1980’s. By 1982, the arcade video game industry in North America alone generated $8 billion in revenues (equating to over $20 billion in today’s dollars).
With the proliferation of personal computers, global sales of computer and console games in 1994 amounted to about $35 billion in today’s dollars. Continuing through the early 2000’s, the vast majority of this market comprised mostly North America, Europe and portions of Southeast Asia.
As a reference, in 1997 per the US Census Bureau, only about 1 in 3 Americans had a personal computer. The smart phone of today has greater power, functionality and graphics than what was available in 1997. It is accessible and affordable to billions of people. Internet.org and other initiatives aim to guarantee that everyone on the planet has access to the Internet with some Android-capable devices going for under $40.
I realize this posts skips around and is perhaps a bit disjointed, perhaps not fully embellishing upon the idea of mega metagaming. It is a broad term encompassing many different things, almost all of which relate to or are an extension of the games we play. The main point considers that for how large the gaming industry already is (and will become), that there are plenty of opportunities to use the games you play for your real world benefit.
Again, I won’t assert that such is easy, but probably no more difficult to earn a living by playing games than the effort to become a professional football player or pro-golfer, a doctor, or any other career out there. It does not necessarily mean that you will get paid to play a game directly, but that it could very well prove an instrumental part in making money.