Will Third Party Tournament Organizers Be Dead By Daylight In A Post-Franchise World?
We’re breaking the meta this week, this is it.
First things first: if you haven’t already read Will Partin’s excellent As Esports Explodes, Will Valve’s ‘Dota 2’ Be Left For Dead tab out of this window right now and give it a read. Partin does an excellent job of outlining some of the larger economic and organizational trends in tier 1 esports over the last several years, and it’s a read well worth your time.
The thrust of Partin’s article is that Valve’s hands-off approach to esports is harming the DOTA 2 ecosystem as competitors such as Activision Blizzard are embracing highly regulated esports models that mimic professional sports leagues, complete with franchising, revenue share on exclusive broadcast rights deals, and an eye towards geographic tie-ins.
While many (though certainly not all) large esports teams are embracing the march towards permanent partnerships with publishers, this begs an interesting question: in a world where the norm is for major publishers to run their flagship esports leagues directly, what role is there for third party tournament organizers such as ESL?
In recent years ESL’s involvement in League of Legends esports has dwindled to the occasional IEM event. In the wake of Riot’s record $300+ million deal with MLBAM for rights to LoL esports broadcasts, some industry observers have speculated that ESL may not even have that much of a role in the ecosystem moving forward. Activision Blizzard meanwhile has expressed that they will be running, in Partin’s words, an absolutely closed ecosystem, with no indication that parties such as ESL can expect to have any significant role in the running of their Overwatch League.
While Activision Blizzard has said that OWL will not run year-round which should hypothetically allow for third parties to stay involved in their space, details are currently scant and it’s fair to project third party tournament and leagues taking a backseat to OWL, much as third party tournaments have taken a backseat to the International and Majors in DOTA 2.
It’s not all gloom and doom for third party organizers like ESL– despite Partin’s reservations, Valve’s lightly regulated esports ecosystems still offer them plenty of opportunities to run profitable events and leagues, and smaller publishers who don’t have the resources of a Riot or Blizzard will likely continue turning to third parties for help running and launching their esports leagues. Esports which don’t have much support from their parent publisher will also naturally gravitate to third party organizers as an important partner in building out their esports ecosystems.
We expect to see third party tournament organizers and personalities attached to them be very skeptical of publisher-run leagues for the forseeable future, while certain publishers and teams with an inside track to a franchise spot will likely sing the praises of that model until the sun goes down.
The truth is probably somewhere in between, and it will be interesting to see how the balance of power between publishers, teams, and third party organizers (and we haven’t even gotten to players…!) shifts in the next eighteen months as major publishers make big esports bets on a traditional sports model of how to run a competitive league.
China’s Professional League of Legends League (LPL) Announces Franchising
Over the weekend, the League of Legends Pro League (LPL), China’s professional League of Legends league, announced that it would begin franchising starting this summer split. The announcement comes just a week and a half after rumors broke that the North American League of Legends Championship Series (NA LCS) would begin franchising starting in 2018. Franchising in the LPL also means the dissolution of the promotion/relegation system. The league will also increase the number of teams in the league from the current 12 spots to 14 spots in 2018 and then on to 20 teams sometime in the future. Unlike the rumors surrounding the NA LCS franchising plan, the current 12 LPL teams are all guaranteed a franchise spot.
Franchising will spur growth across all leagues. By removing the risk of relegation, sponsors can comfortably sign long term endorsement deals without the fear of losing their investment due to demotion. Teams can invest in long term, higher salary player contracts knowing they will be safe competing in the league that commands the most eyeballs. While neither Riot nor the NA LCS have officially announced whether the franchising rumors are true, it will be interesting to see if any other League of Legends regional leagues follow suit after the LPL’s announcement. While there are no indications that other regional leagues are considering the change, the success (or failure) of the LPL or NA LCS franchising will play a major role in other leagues’ decisions in the future. Observing the franchising experiment in two of the most developed League of Legends leagues provides a risk-free test case for all regions but also for Riot as the competitive ecosystem becomes more and more globalized.
Streamer Ice_Poseidon Gets Swatted On A Plane, Banned From Twitch
Popular Twitch streamer Paul “Ice_Poseidon” Denino was escorted off an airplane on April 28 after a viewer called in a bomb threat under his name. Denino was then later banned by Twitch for terms of service violations. Flying from California to Arizona, Denino reportedly spilled his flight information while livestreaming under Twitch’s IRL category from the airport before boarding.
Twitch streamers being “swatted” is nothing new; viewers will often play pranks on streamers. Most of the time, the jokes are rather harmless and will result in a temporary ban from the streaming site at most. In this case, Denino reached national news and is banned permanently from streaming on Twitch.
The situation has sparked controversy among the Twitch community. There is no regulation against streamers leaking their location online; but following Denino’s incident, Twitch is updating its rules. Many feel that Twitch is just updating its terms as the problems occur as opposed to before. Popular streamer “Summit1g” expressed concern about the situation because these incidents threaten the jobs of all other streamers. Although Ice_Poseidon will be moving to stream on Youtube instead, his job has been adversely affected by one viewer. It is concerning that Twitch does not put in more effort to protect one of their most popular figures in the IRL streaming category. What will prevent other streamers from losing their careers in the same fashion?