Money makes the world go round, but in terms of the future of eSports, funding and investment from major companies keeps the world of competitive gaming growing in a positive light. Such was the news yesterday that NBA team the Philadelphia 76ers purchase two existing eSports teams as part of a new venture, another positive step forward.
Here’s the breakdown. The 76ers ownership group has officially purchased Team Dignitas (a team that’s been around the scene for many years) and League of Legends’ Team Apex. Both teams will merge into one under the Dignitas brand, and will grow from strength to strength with the financial backing of the NBA franchise (though that’s largely based on how well the club does in the long term. They won just 10 of their 82 games last season, though there’s hope amongst many involved that the upcoming 2016/17 season will be much improved).
The investment by the 76ers is certainly a big one, not just in terms of the money involved, but the proof positive that eSports is now the big ticket item that everyone wants to get involved in. That’s the obvious response to the merger, but there’s some other key benefits to consider. For one, many eSports clubs are brought together in the hope of gaining not just a following through their results, but sponsorship’s and royalties.
As I mentioned earlier this week in eSports Weekly, many of the upcoming changes to League of Legends behind the scenes deals with new and improved revenue streams for teams. It’s an issue that concerns many other games as well, to ensure stability and funding to keep teams both engaged in the scene and interested in future competitions. But there’s something to be said about having a major sports franchise involved in your day-to-day activities, ensuring that everything you do is funded and supported in the best of ways. It will also help to guide a more stable and professional environment, not that I’m suggesting the current scene isn’t professional, but many teams and investors are still a little up in the air when it comes to ensuring the safety and support of its players and supporters, likewise many competition organisers.
2016 has been a massive year for eSports, from free-to-air TV events to larger prize and generally a broader interest in the scene from everyone involved. The 76ers likely won’t be the last franchise to invest in eSports, though it’s certainly the first to make its intentions known and it’s a big one. Hopefully others follow suits, perhaps here in Australia. Can you imagine the Perth Wildcats or Carlton Football Club owning an Overwatch team? It might not be as far away as you think.
Mark Isaacson is the editor of PN2. Go say hi @Mark_D_Isaacson.