Media and publishing companies, investment funds, and esports veterans are going in big on Super League Gaming, the Open Championship of esports.
One of the difficult things for esports to wrangle is the fragmentation of the burgeoning platform. To put together a team in the official Overwatch league, for example, carries with it a $20m franchise fee. This effectively prices out most traditional esports teams, while Blizzard is clearly trying to push a one-team-per-city approach, and is actively courting traditional sporting franchises – like NFL teams – as a result.
The net result is that five Overwatch teams dropped out as a result of this stinging charge. It’s understandable, when Blizzard’s other esports, like the League of Legends League Championship Series apparently costs a mere $1.8m to enter. The mind boggles at these numbers.
At the other end of the scale, though, sits Super League Gaming. The focus for SLG is on accessibility and openness, more like the Open Championship or the FA Cup than The Masters or the Champions League, and that stance is clearly getting some traction.
Today, Super League Gaming has announced that a group of investors – including kids TV channel Nickleodeon, multi-format publisher DMG Entertainment, several investment funds, and established names in esports, like Jeffrey Vinik, owner of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning – have invested nearly $14m into Super League Gaming. That raises the total earned by the league to around $28m so far. Ann Hand, CEO of Super League Gaming, said:
Esports is exploding in popularity around the world, but the current landscape is lacking an open, easy access point for aspiring gamers and enthusiasts to connect and participate. With our online and live in-person events, we’re leading the way in bringing gamers into esports in a safe, fun and socially rewarding way. Our city-based clubs add a sense of belonging and fandom currently missing from esports.
Why are these investors focusing in a relatively open platform like Super League Gaming, when the likes of Blizzard are throwing huge gobs of money, trying to keep the clubhouse closed? Here’s Matthew Evans, vice president of digital and new business at Nickleodeon, to spell it out:
Matthew Evans, Executive Vice President of Digital and New Business, Nickelodeon, added:
“We are excited to enter the world of esports through our relationship with Super League, which has a loyal and growing fan base of kids. Nickelodeon is interested in esports because gaming is an important passion point for kids today, and forging this partnership with Super League puts us at the forefront of where kids will be playing next.”
Makes sense to us. The more open the system, the better it is for all involved.