Esports Learning Lessons from NFL
Whilst most sports fans will have been spending plenty of time analysing the odds for the Super Bowl recently, it’s hard to ignore the fact that many of our favourite NFL teams have been taking a much greater interest in esports. Esports, or competitive gaming, has become a global phenomenon, and whilst the thought of watching other people playing video games might be a little bizarre, there is little denying its popularity.
Recent figures have suggested that more than 200 million people tuned into watch the recent League of Legends World Championships finals, and when you realise that only 103 million viewers saw the Philadelphia Eagles beat New England Patriots in the 2018 Super Bowl, it’s clear that something very significant is happening.
In order to combat declining viewing figures, many traditional sporting associations have been trying to jump on the esports bandwagon. Recently we have seen the New England Patriots owner, Robert Kraft, splashing out to buy into the Overwatch League esports tournament, whilst the Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide-receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster, has made little attempt to hide his love of competitive gaming by wearing a shirt with the name of the esports team, Faze Clan, emblazoned on the front.
But despite the huge potential of esports, it seems that there are few things to overcome before some of the larger NFL teams join the competitive gaming revolution. Firstly, esports has only been around for a relatively short amount of time, and so there is a dearth of reliable statistics about the relevant teams and players. Whilst NFL fans have no shortage of facts and figures relating to the performances of the athletes, until recently, it seems that the esports world has seemed fairly opaque.
However, with the growth of esports betting resources such as https://www.esports.net/ it seems that things are becoming clearer and it has now become just as easy to place a safe and fair bet on an esport like League of Legends or Counter Strike Global Offensive just as simply as you would do an NFL match.
In addition to this, there are growing moves to standardise esports in a way that makes it instantly familiar to anybody who has enjoyed the NFL. Blizzard Entertainment recently made the wise move to set up the Overwatch League for the first-person shooter that features a fixed set of teams that cannot be relegated so as to make it easier for fans to get better acquainted with team names like Dallas Fuel, Los Angeles Valiant and Philadelphia Fusion.
In addition to this, the Overwatch League also makes sure that each of the players receives a guaranteed salary to help them professionalise their gaming careers. Whilst the current crop of esports stars would be lucky to earn anything close to the $22 million salary reportedly earned by NFL legends such as Tom Brady, it’s thought that most pro gamers now earn six-figure sums and so we can expect the increased earnings help esports stars stay in the game for longer.
For a long time, gaming fans had to make do with watching their favourite esports teams via live streaming services such as Twitch.tv and YouTube Gaming. But with ESPN’s ground-breaking decision to cover esports such as League of Legends, Dota 2 and Hearthstone, it’s hoped that the television network can take esports into the mainstream. Whilst it might initially seem odd to see a competitive gaming tournament on ESPN, the broadcaster should be able to help even the biggest sceptic make sense of esports power rankings and join in the fun of one of the world’s most exciting sporting trends.