SBJ Esports: Kansas City shows benefits of gaming/sports crossover (2024)

A jam-packed agenda of esports industry experts made SBJ Esports Rising a must-attend event. Thanks to all who tuned in on Thursday (and if you were a conference attendee, you can check outall of the panels on demand). Here are a few key takeaways from the program. -- The SBJ Esports team

Esports Rising gave an inside look at how one gaming organization partnered with an MLB team to the benefit of all. Mark Josey, co-Founder & CEO of the Kansas City Pioneers esports org, sat with Royals exec Scott Lichtenauer to talk about the benefits of their partnership and lessons that can learned.

Recent data showsthat the average age of subscribers to the MLB.TV streaming service has gone from 48 in 2018 to 44. While that drops shows MLB is making strides to get a younger fanbase, there remains work to be done in keeping that demo interested in the game. The recent rule changes MLB instituted are helping with that, but esports and gaming already have a built-in younger demo that every pro sports property covets.

And that’s why the partnership between the Pioneers and the Royals is so important. The Pioneers can activate with an age demo the Royals are hunger for, and the Royals can expand the Pioneers’ reach. “I look at this partnership as a real kind of gateway,” said Lichtenauer. “We're trying to link up America's pastime with America's fastest growing pastime -- esports. And so it's a chance for us to use our platform to introduce fans of the Royals to the Pioneers in esports and make that introduction easier. Then it's also a platform for us to show that fans of the Pioneers have a home here at [Kauffman Stadium] and have a place that understands them, recognizes them and then is going to cater to them.”

That power has already been flexed, as the two came together to host a team bootcamp for the teams playing at the Halo Championship Series in Kansas City. Together, they brought in some of the best teams in the world to play and train at Kauffman Stadium, with games being put on the big screen for fans.

It was a chance to bring fans who may not have ever been inside the ballpark to see what they were missing. Natus Vincere, OpTic Gaming, FaZe Clan, eUnited, Sentinels, G2 Esports, G1 and the Pioneers all took part. “It was really well-received, and the Royals did such an amazing job bringing us in,” said Josey. “Microsoft, Xbox, some of the biggest organizations in the world ... showed up. From a Royals and Pioneers perspective. It’s like them saying ‘Hey! We believe in what you're doing.'"

For Lichtenauer, the event joined two very different fan bases who may now be rooting for each other at some point. "It was a complete success," he said. "To see our owner, Mr. Sherman, come down wearing his jersey with his gamer tag on the back -- that's awesome.” --Kevin Hitt

ESL Pro League Commissioner Alex Inglot struck a crucial point at Esports Rising on Thursday: When it comes to the debate over franchised leagues vs. semi-franchised leagues, no “one-size-fits all ecosystems" exist.

As franchised and partnership leagues grow and evolve during the current "esports winter," it’s clear that while no league operates the same, a shared focus on a “digital goods” revenue share model is the wave of the future. “I’m sure each of us think that we’ve got [our esports models] right in each of the places that we’ve done it,"Inglot said. "Time will tell, but I think there’s some really exciting configurations out there for people to sample and try."

While attrition has hit several high-profile franchised competitions, like the League of Legends Championship Series and Overwatch League, some are still bullish on the concept of franchising. OverActive Media Chief Commercial Officer Alyson Walker: “We feel very strongly that they are building very strong leagues, that they’re evolving business models and structures with the teams, and there’s a bright future there.”

ESL’s quasi-franchising takes a different approach. The Louvre Agreement in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive holds 15 teams that receive direct invites to events and a “certain assortment of benefits,” Inglot noted.

For teams, that includes revenue share, an important element for those outfits. One of the most popular ways for teams and leagues is to sell team-branded digital goods in online marketplaces. Riot Games is adding a “viewer pass” for its Worlds 2023 tournament, which will include digital goods. Other competitions like Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six: Siege, Psyonix’s Rocket League and 343i’s Halo Infinite also sell team-branded skins for players online.

Digital goods are quickly becoming a high priority. Ubisoft VP/Global Esports Francois-Xavier Deniele touts the company’s “R6 Share” revenue-sharing program as a massive driver of success for Ubisoft leagues. In the past, R6 Share has been described as “lucrative," and its perks have allowed Siege to stick around as an esport for longer than many imagined when the game released in 2015.

“Digital products, icons, [microtransactions] are a huge opportunity,” Walker added. -- Hunter Cooke

  • G2 Esports has partnered with liquor brand Jagermeister. The two brands are celebrating the partnership with a party in London on May 12.
  • Cavs Legion Gaming Club entered into a partnership with gaming peripherals brands SteelSeries and KontrolFreek.
  • Kevin Durant has made his way into the Call of Duty franchise as a playable character. He joins other notable athletes as playable characters in CoD like Neymar and Lionel Messi.
  • Alpine, the F1 team owned by French automaker Renault, will be the official automotive and motorsport partner of the Paris Major, which will be the final Major using the original Counter-Strike: Global Offensive title.
SBJ Esports: Kansas City shows benefits of gaming/sports crossover (2024)


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