Major Brands Sponsoring Video Gaming Events Amidst Rapid Popularity Growth
The video game industry "has turned its ambitions toward the lucrative world" of professional competition, "widely known as e-sports," according to a front-page piece by Nick Wingfield of the N.Y. TIMES. Game tournaments "sell out giant arenas, and some attract at-home audiences larger than those of top traditional sporting events." Brands like Coca-Cola and American Express "have lined up as sponsors," and prize money "has soared to the millions of dollars." Multiple independent game leagues "have emerged," including Electronic Sports League and Major League Gaming, that collectively "put on dozens of competitions a year." Game publishers "host events, too, seeing irresistible opportunities to promote their games." Riot Games "operates leagues around the world," one of "the most ambitious publisher-led efforts." Activision Blizzard, another publisher, has put up $1M "in prize money for a championship" in L.A. for its combat shooting game Call of Duty. Even with the number of e-sports participants growing, the Internet has "forged a tighter link between fans and players than almost any other sport." Twitch, a website started in '11, "lets players stream video of their playing sessions over the Internet from PCs and consoles." Because professional gamers often practice on sites like Twitch, fans "can get behind-the-scenes peeks at practice sessions by their favorite players." Gaming social network Raptr CEO Dennis Fong said, "Imagine if LeBron James and Michael Jordan, in every practice and every live NBA game, had a GoPro camera strapped to their chest and they had an earbud where they can hear people ask direct questions and occasionally answer it when they’re playing. That level of access is unprecedented" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/31). Meanwhile, in N.Y., David Carr offered his thoughts on the space and wrote, “Say what you want about game nerds, there is clear value in owning so much screen time of a hard-to-reach demographic of young men. Even if I don’t get gaming, I am beginning to understand the larger game it represents” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/1).