Let’s start with some numbers. The world championship for “League of Legends” reached 27 million viewers in 2014. Over 100,000 people attended the Intel Extreme Masters in 2015, hosted by the world’s largest eSports company, ESL. Turner Broadcasting and WME/IMG aim to broadcast 20 live e-sports events over the course of 2016. Tournament prizes for some of the top games include nearly $60 million for Dota 2 over 578 tournaments and over $27 million for League of Legends in over 1600 tournaments.
All metrics are increasing: physical attendance, number of online viewers, number of competitors, cash prizes, etc.
I’ve touched on eSports a few times previously, suffice that competitive gaming is (or should be) a common interest to both game developers and gamers. At its simplest, competitive gaming provides an opportunity for everyone to have fun and possibly make some money. However, professional players, teams, ladder rankings and tournament events are also marketing venues – even if the “game” is not your game. That is to say, getting involved with other racing games is a way to promote your raging app to gamers likely willing to try it.
The race car above shows the decals of numerous sponsors who contributed either financially or materially to Scott Pruett’s racing team. Of course, race car sponsorships represent a different marketing model than is associated with mobile and online games. It does not hurt to take a look at their model to see how it might be applied to yours:
Numerous marketing and promotion elements are in play and can be easily adapted for mobile apps and eSports events. The cost of eSports sponsorships vs the opportunities they may create are very much on the low-end of budget requirements, consisting of cost of game play and team apparel, perhaps some extra hardware. The primary expense is likely to come from admission, travel and lodging to attend tournaments. Still many events are conducted online at the same time as events become more widespread and accessible.
Obviously, there is a major gap between starting a team and getting the team to place in major tournaments. Leastwise, you have the option to form or recruit your own team or seek out teams already looking for sponsors. Like anything else, winning in tournaments comes from consistent and persistent practice. Still, we are talking about people who are going to play anyway.
One option for developers to consider is to invite the highest ranking players of their own app to form the basis a competitive eSports team for a similar game that is already heavily monetized in tournaments within the same genre. Companies with enough developers could form their own teams, as well – as not long ago (and still) there are many businesses which have their own baseball and bowling teams. That goes to say that gaming, sports and esports are not just games but social and professional networking opportunities, as well.
You only need to look at professional sports like baseball, basketball, football, hockey, tennis, racing, even surfing to see the outcome of eSports. From forming or sponsoring your own teams to running competitions and potentially hosting your own events (physical or virtual), you have several possibilities to consider. I remember the days when most people had never been online and where the internet was believed to be a passing fad. Obviously it wasn’t, but the lesson is to get in on the “groundfloor” of The Next Big Thing early.