League of Legends is a major force in the esports industry. With more than 100 million players around the world and tournaments held regularly, League represents the new normal for professional gaming. It even sets the esports standard. ESPN is reporting that the Cleveland Cavaliers have grabbed a spot in the North American League of Legends Championship Series (LSC). They join the Golden State Warriors, whose owner Joe Lacob spent $13 million on an LCS franchise last week. The asking price for a new spot in the championship is $10 million. FlyQuest, the team backed by Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Wes Edens, will be shelling that out for a permanent place in LCS next year. It’s also being reported that the Houston Rockets will join the League.
Last week, the New York Yankees acquired a stake in Echo Fox, the eSports franchised owned by NBA alum Rick Fox. The deal forms part of a bigger partnership with Vision eSports, giving the Yankees a stake in an “ecosystem” of eSports properties, including a stats company and a content production outfit. Which is a great example of where esports is heading.
What is League of Legends exactly? And how will these teams make it so successful? League of Legends is easily a video game juggernaut worldwide, with millions of fans devoted to its competitive scene. Prize pools and audience sizes for major League of Legends events seem to grow every season, they are just getting into mainstream sports. There’s been a big shift over the last couple of years as professional athletes and other big names in the industry have started to invest in their own esports teams.
This past winter, League of Legends made a deal with the Big Ten Conference. A major deal, to the tune of $2.6 billion dollars. Last year, FOX, ESPN and CBS split the rights to broadcast a number of Big Ten games on their network. The deal with League of Legends was for the Big Ten Network to broadcast its Championships, and they did. Giving League of Legends some serious airtime on some of the United States’ biggest sports networks. Which is a huge deal considering, don’t you think? I mean, sports and video games typically don’t see this kind of crossover. And certainly not on this scale, but it’s happening.
We wrote a post a few weeks ago about how sports is considered an RPG. So it kind of makes sense that an online game, like League of Legends, is getting into sports. It’s a huge, largely untapped market – until now. I think the challenge will be getting people who play video games to see that sports are an RPG. The other challenge is going to be getting people who are into sports to see that video games can enhance the experience.
The two audience groups seem to diverge greatly. Or at least they seem to. But they do have something in common – they both take themselves out of their own lives for a moment to experience something else. Watching a basketball game on TV doesn’t automatically mean you’re a gamer. But it does suggest that you are interested in something to escape into. And I would argue the same for gamers. I honestly think that this is going to grow in ways that we can’t even imagine right now. And with teams like the Cavaliers and the Warriors on board, this is something we should all be watching out for.