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Volume 21 No. 39
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Year to show what works, what doesn’t

2018 will be the year hype gives way to sober questions in esports, predicts Tobias Sherman, former IMG global head of esports and co-founder of the Foundry IV game development shop.

First, Overwatch League and Riot Games’ reconstituted League Championship Series will kick off this month, with major traditional sports figures as team investors and media and sponsorship arrangements meant to mimic successful sports leagues. Then in May, the NBA 2K League will start.

In short, Sherman said, the market will start to learn what’s working and what’s not. With real evidence and data coming, investors will demand progress on live event viewership growth, online audience growth and the corresponding value of media deals, and some evidence that profitability is coming, if not actually turning the corner.

“2017 was governed by a fear of missing out, and some halfway decent marketing,” Sherman said. “In 2018, the cream’s really going to have to start to rise to the top. By 2020, you’d better be starting to get your head around those buckets.”

Elsewhere in esports, third-party tournament organizer ESL has moved to standardize all of its events with a 16-team format. The Riot-BAMTech media deal will likely generate a new way of viewing League of Legends action. Riot also may move toward selling semi-permanent team slots in its European League series, and has settled on a long-term format for its collegiate series. And Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon will continue to pursue esports competitions and programming.

Ben Fischer

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