When comparing esports and dating apps, the connection between the two is not immediately apparent. However, since 2018 a lot of companies within the space, such as Bumble and Tinder, have made a move into the esports industry.
In many of these cases, the partnerships included limited-edition content, special events and rewards for dating app users who are also interested in gaming and esports. The potential is evidently there, but why now?
It comes as no surprise that people nowadays have almost completely adopted smartphones into their daily lives and are more digitally connected than ever. Moreover, there has been a growing interest in mobile gaming which has emerged as a strong contender to desktop and console alternatives.
A study by Verto Analytics brings forth some interesting insights about mobile gaming. Not only is the average ‘super mobile gamer’ described as a 39-year-old female but they also rack up around 127 gaming sessions per month. Contrary to popular belief, the top gaming app that the ‘super mobile gamer’ spent the most time on are not Candy Crush titles — which placed second and third — but Pokémon Go.
When trying to find out what is the top app category, usually studies come down to two contenders: ‘Communications and social’ and ‘gaming’ apps. Since dating apps are included in the first category it becomes slightly clearer why these firms would aim to cross paths with gaming and esports.
To better understand the growing relationship between dating apps and esports, Esports Insider spoke with Julia Smith Caulfield, Head of Brand Partnerships at Bumble and Gina Chung Lee, Chief Marketing Officer at Gen.G to look back at their fruitful collaboration.
The Bumble Effect
Since Bumble was founded in 2014 by Whitney Wolfe Herd, the company has looked to differentiate itself by becoming an empowering and safe dating platform for women. Herd fought for a female-centred dating app when she realised how ‘outdated’ the dating dynamics were at the time. In this case, when members of the opposite sex match on Bumble, women are required to make the first move.
When talking about the history of the app, Caulfield also added: “When Bumble was founded in 2014, we knew that we needed to solve a significant problem: there was no safe place online built with women in mind.
“As we move forward to drive positive, institutional change within our organisation and beyond, we look to include, uplift, and support the communities we serve.”
Team Bumble for the win
In 2019 Bumble partnered with esports organisation Gen.G to launch the organisation’s first all-female Fortnite team named ‘Gen.G Empowered by Bumble,’ or ‘Team Bumble’ for short. The Fortnite-focused team featured Kristen ‘KittyPlays’ Valnicek, Madison ‘maddiesuun’ Mann, Tina ‘TINARAES’ Perez, Carlee ‘Carlee’ Gress and Hannah ‘Hannah’ Reyes.
“We started this partnership to empower women with the correct tools to compete in esports. With the teams and competitive staff that we built, we’ve been able to see success all across the board, seeing how the general landscape has changed for women in esports since the partnership launched,” Lee explained.
Though Fortnite is one of the most popular video games in the world, not a single woman competed for the main event of Epic Games’s inaugural World Cup finals at the time. This is especially surprising considering Epic Games’s CEO, Tim Sweeney, estimated that 35 per cent of the game’s 250m players are women, proving Fortnite to be a top choice for the demographic.
In 2019, TINARAES went on and won Twitchcon and was voted MVP. That was a huge success for women in esports and for Team Bumble.
“It’s powerful to be able to share successes like that. We have also seen many large brand partners, publishers like Riot, and other organisations voice their support for women in esports, and that has made our partnership feel even more fruitful,” Lee said.
According to Caulfield, the multi-year Bumble and Gen.G partnership “marked the beginning of two organisations coming together with a shared mission to empower women in the gaming community and champion a safer environment for women online, especially as esports has been – and continues to be – largely male-dominated.”
She continued: “We’re always looking for opportunities that help us bring our mission and values to places and industries that have growth opportunities for equality and inclusivity. We understand that there’s a long way to go, but we hope that our multi-year partnership with Gen.G empowers more women to enter the professional gaming space.”
Besides Bumble becoming a jersey sponsor for the team, it also launched a ‘Gaming’ badge in its friend-finding mode. Through it, users could indicate that they enjoy playing or watching video games.
Moreover, those who adopted the ‘Intention’ badge on the app’s friendship mode, Bumble BFF, could also begin looking for friends to game with. The gaming badge became a popular addition to the list of other activities Bumble users could include in their profiles such as ‘workouts’, ‘night-outs’, ‘live music’ and many more.
“Two years later in 2021, finding a friend to game with is one of our most popular Bumble BFF intentions, based on those who adopted the ‘Intentions’ badge in America last month,” Caulfield revealed.
The aftermath of Team Bumble
A year after the announcement of the Bumble and Gen.G partnership, both entities decided to take a step further and create an all-women VALORANT team. Madison ‘Maddiesuun’ Mann, a key player from Team Bumble Fortnite, served as a mentor and talent scout to help find new VALORANT players for the organisation.
As Caulfield saw it, an all-female VALORANT team was ‘a natural expansion’ of the Team Bumble partnership.
She continued: “As we wanted to continue our goal to achieve equity for women in online spaces.
“We were excited to expand Team Bumble and continue our work with Gen.G to empower women gamers and create a safe and supportive community for them to come together.”
Gen.G has continued to support female gamers through collaborations by setting up coaching, practices and paying salaries. This way female gamers can focus on competition and level up their successes.
In the meantime, Team Bumble Fortnite also partnered with streaming service Caffeine. The team started streaming Fortnite gameplays, as well as brought attention to topics dedicated to women’s empowerment in gaming and esports. Caffeine is also known for having a good filtering and moderation system for its live streams, which further helps create a safe and inclusive environment for viewers.
A much less reported aspect of the Gen.G and Bumble partnership is the dating app’s participation in the Gen.G Foundation. As Gen.G announced its $1m (~£727,865) commitment to the foundation, Bumble was also included in the roundup of first-year partners that took part in this initiative.
“This multi-year fund is used to support women, people of colour, and low-income students enrolled in a US university or college interested in majoring in gaming, esports, entrepreneurship, journalism, or content creation,” Caulfield explained.
The Gen.G Foundation provides students with the opportunity to continue their education by offering scholarships, ultimately helping young people get started in the gaming industy.
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“The foundation is helping create the next generation of esports and gaming leaders and we are proud to play a part in the development of young gamers,” Lee said.
Besides the development of Team Bumble and the support of The Gen.G Foundation, Bumble confirmed to Esports Insider it doesn’t have any upcoming esports collaborations in its immediate plans.
Lee also revealed some future plans for Team Bumble, saying the team will participate in Galorants, VCT Game Changers and that the side has ‘other things in the pipeline’. To conclude, the creation of Team Bumble alone is a great step towards making a female VALORANT and Fortnite finalist a reality.