ESI Super Forum – Understanding the esports ecosystem

15 March 2018


The Esports Insider Super Forum takes place a week to the day at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge in London.

The one-day conference, which is hosted on March 22nd, has a whole host of figures from the industry and a bunch of interesting topics to be covered. The question the first panel of the day will tackle is essentially why should ‘traditional sports’ care about esports? We’ve a highly experienced panel to talk attendees through the ecosystem, who’s watching (across the board) and why it matters. This includes veterans such as Dignitas’ Michel ‘Odee’ O’Dell, Mark Cox from Riot Games (the developer behind League of Legends), ESL UK chief James Dean and the number one at Kinguin, Mr. Viktor Wanli

Since esports is very much wrapped up in the online and digital worlds – whether its the games played or the main way in which spectators watch competitions – it means the esports ecosystem can, for some, be a little tricky to follow. Esports teams can operate across anything from one to thirteen (in the case of Team Liquid), and all these scenes have a life and entity of their own. 

This means that within the industry orgs can take on multiple roles, which is dissimilar to most sports clubs, but somewhat comparable to the likes of Barcelona running teams across football, basketball, handball and others.

A single company can literally take the reins on running an entire tournament – from organisation, to funding through sponsorships, to content creation based on streams, and to distribution and advertisement. A good example of this is Faceit, an independent platform for professional competitions which is behind the annual Esports Championship Series in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and the forthcoming CS:GO Major; the UK’s first this September. The level of control provided by this means of running a tournament can make it a tad hard to get a full understand of everything that goes on, but this panel will help massively.

Esports itself wouldn’t exist without the games and their creators, which means developers and publishers are at the very beginning (and head of) the ecosystem. Further to that, some companies choose to host their own competitions too – look at Riot Games’ League of Legends Championship Series, by way of example.

As mentioned one of the six panels that will be hosted throughout the forum is Understanding the esports ecosystem: Who’s watching, what’s it really worth and why traditional sports should care. Speakers at the panel are the following: 

  • Mark Cox – UK Head of Publishing – Riot Games
  • Michael ‘ODEE’ O’Dell – General Manager – Team Dignitas
  • James Dean – MD – ESL UK
  • Viktor Romaniuk Wanli – CEO – Kinguin

The panel will be moderated by Ian Smith, Commissioner at ESIC.

So, where does the money in esports come from? Well, when you compare it to traditional sports team is gets really interesting. For starters, sport teams typically have stadiums in which they sell tickets to games, use them to merchandise, run events and more whereas esports teams can literally be made up of players from around the world with no HQ or base as such. This makes for a more efficient operation in terms of finances.

Perhaps more significantly, a lot of sports teams are beneficiaries of far more established broadcasting and media rights packages too (which in turn leads to easier negotiation with sponsors), and whilst this is certainly beginning to emerge, esports still lags very much behind here. Another panel on the day will explore this in depth, and you can read about that here

A lot of the esports economy is made up of sponsorship, especially given the lack of broadcasting rights. More and more household brands are making moves into esports: Intel, Coca Cola, Red Bull, Audi, Pringles, and KFC all have dipped their toes into the industry to date. 

Traditional sports clubs should be looking at what esports organisations are doing, simply because they’re capturing the attention of a younger audience. This, in turn, means less and less eyes are on sports – which also means its losing money or this is a risk for the future. This isn’t to say the younger generation are ignoring sports in lieu of esports in some form, but that the latter is a new alternative and a new way for them to be entertained. 

This, in turn, explains why organisations such as La Liga, the Bundesliga, the NHL, Formula 1 and plenty more sports organisations, are entering the esports scene. The Overwatch League is a perfect example – multiple owners and seniors of American sports teams have invested in a newly-established gaming league and created their own franchise or invested in an existing one. It has been widely reported that it could cost up to $20 million just for a single gaming franchise, in the case of the Overwatch League. 

Find out more and secure tickets here.

Reach out to [email protected] with any questions. 

Sponsors and Partners of the ESI Super Forum include Abios, RewardMob, Squire Patton Boggs, Qwatti eSports Agency, AliQuantum Gaming, Sportradar, ESL UK, noblechairs and SpecialEffect