The second annual Esports Industry Awards gain traction
Yesterday, the second annual Esports Industry Awards were held in London. The event was a black tie affair, with key stakeholders from throughout the industry in attendance. Awards were handed out in categories ranging from Esports Coverage Website of the Year (won by ESPN) to Esports Team of the Year (won by OpTic Gaming), and there were even special guest appearances by Damien O’Brien and Big Narstie. Awards were doled out based on a panel of 12 influential figures in the esports community, as well as the fan vote. For those who are interested, the full list of awards and winners can be found here.
In just its second year, the Esports Industry Awards really picked up steam. The guest list was packed with industry influencers, the stream pushed 25,000 concurrent viewers, and my twitter feed was filled with people watching and engaging with the event. While there is still room for improvement in many areas—the stream disconnected a few times, the entire event is packed with obtrusive brand integration, and the overall flow of the show could be improved—this event has improved massively from last year and I’m really excited to see its upward trajectory. Awards and the accompanying broadcast play a crucial role in the sports, media, and entertainment industry. In fact, the incredible power of established and coveted awards recently came to the fore in a dispute between the LA Times and Walt Disney Company.
As our industry grows, it’s important that we establish a leading set of awards that can recognize and validate accomplishments made throughout the industry. The crucial piece of this puzzle is that an award is only as significant as the level of prestige surrounding it, which stems directly from the perception of those in a position of power. My hope is not only that the people behind the Esports Industry Awards will continue to improve on their event, but that influential people within the industry will make a concerted effort to support it in any way they can—attend, watch, promote, sponsor, etc. The organizers need our support to make this venture truly successful, so let’s make sure we give it to them.
Overwatch League confirms prize pool details for inaugural season
The first season of the Overwatch League will kick off on January 10, 2018. Teams will be divided into Pacific and Atlantic divisions, each containing six teams. The league’s season structure will include four stages, similar to LCS’s splits. In addition to minimum player salaries of $50,000, teams will have the opportunity to win a share of a $3.5M prize pool. Prizes are awarded based on stage placement, regular season record, and of course, a large share goes to the league champion.
Unlike traditional sports where prize pools and other financial incentives for winning tournaments and championships are virtually unknown and rarely talked about, esports prize pools have helped to build the industry into what it is today. However, focus on these financial gains may soon be a thing of the past.
Prize pools help to legitimize tournaments in ecosystems where there are endless tournaments. In CS:GO, for instance, Valve allows just about anyone to run tournaments. Without a prize pool, fans, players and teams are unable to determine the competitiveness of a given tournament. A large prize for a tournament creates the perception, whether true or not, that said tournament will be well operated thus attracting attention from fans and top teams.
In the ancient days of esports (only a few years ago), prize pools were the only way players could receive income, and winning tournaments allowed them to continue pursuing their passions. To this day, players are motivated by the opportunity to win hundreds of thousands, even millions in some cases, through high placements in tournaments. Fans also see these incredibly high prize pools and are intrigued by the opportunity. Large prize pools are tools for tournament organizers to market their events and build storylines of teams fighting for their share.
However, Riot and the LCS has leaned towards the traditional sports model: playing for pride and bragging rights instead of focusing on cash. To be fair, the 2017 League of Legends World Championship prize pool was over $4.5M–although this was not publicized nearly as aggressively as other esport events. Instead of hoisting enormous checks over their heads, players hold the Summoner’s Cup in victory. That’s partly because League of Legend’s players are compensated as salaried, full time employees. Whether they win or lose, their salaries are guaranteed. That’s not to say they aren’t motivated by a prize pool – they are – but the LCS and its culture has become more similar to traditional sports in this sense than other esports titles. Whether or not this trend continues remains to be seen but we must appreciate what prize pools have done for the growth of esports at an unclear time in the industries lifecycle.
OGN to launch PUBG league in 2018
Korean operator OGN has recently stated that a 100-player studio intended for a PUBG league is currently under construction and is expected to be fully operational in 2018.
The recent news surrounding OGN provides hope that China, a country hosting 40% of PUBG’s active players, will refrain from banning the game due to gameplay that “deviates from the values of socialism.”
The fact that OGN has invested its resources in a PUBG league indicates big things on the horizon. According to Steam, The Battle Royale game has topped Overwatch to become the second most played game, trailing only League of Legends.
OGN’s vision is exciting. However, creating a successful PUBG league will not be an easy task. Despite PUBG’s massive popularity, developer Bluehole faces significant challenges in cleaning up a handful of bugs that have caused Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene, the game’s creator, to state in an interview last month that the game is not yet “esports ready.” In addition to glitches and cheaters, creating a viewer-friendly, 100-person game is another hurdle that must be overcome in order to reach PUBG’s true esports potential. This weekend, IEM Oakland will provide a snapshot of how the game’s broadcasting has developed in a 20-team battle for $200,000.
OGN is the ideal candidate to take an “esports ready” PUBG to new heights, having broadcasted a plethora of major esports since the early 2000s. When Korea embraces a game, it is almost a sure shot that it will produce the world’s best players, ramping up competition to the highest level.
Prepare yourselves for the successful incorporation of PUBG into competitive esports, pushing the industry to even greater heights by setting the stage for Battle Royale gameplay.