"What we're doing today in esports is like the early days of building the NFL and NBA."
Lionsgate is the next major investor gearing up to grab its share of the esports industry.
The entertainment giant is investing in esports franchise Immortals, joining new investor financier Michael Milken and previous investors Memphis Grizzlies co-owner Steve Kaplan and others.
Immortals fields teams across esports genres, including League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, and Super Smash Bros. Lionsgate's undisclosed investment, announced earlier today, will fund new content across Immortals' lineups. It will use Lionsgate's "suite of distribution platforms for a coveted consumer demographic with compelling engagement metrics," Peter Levin, Lionsgate president of interactive ventures and games, said in a statement. "We're delighted to be an early mover in a market that has the potential to transform the face of sports entertainment," Levin added.
The Immortals investment is Lionsgate's biggest esports venture, but it's not the only one. Last year, Pilgrim Media Group (of which Lionsgate is a majority investor) partnered with esports organization ESL to create esports content for television and digital platforms.
"Lionsgate joins a dream team of media, tech, and traditional sports partners who share our vision of building a dynamic Immortals organization and a strong esports foundation," Immortals chairman Clinton Foy said. "What we're doing today in esports is like the early days of building the NFL and NBA. It's not the evolution of games—it's the evolution of sports, technology, and media."
Last year saw major growth for the esports industry as a whole. If January's esports ventures are any indication of the year to come, 2017 will be even bigger.
Jan 19 2017 - 7:32 pm
The future of Echo Fox: Using stats to change the esports recruiting game
Echo Fox has big plans for its teams and the way it recruits players.
For Echo Fox, TwitchCon 2016 was a test—a very important one. The H1Z1 Invitational at the streaming giant's annual convention was the final stage of a long process it hopes to use to shake up its esports recruiting process.
It paid off. For months Echo Fox scoured the Twin Galaxies leaderboard to help find exceptional H1Z1 players for its new roster. Twin Galaxies, acquired by Echo Fox CEO Jace Hall last year, is a site that tracks video game world records and great plays. That new roster was then to compete in the H1Z1 Invitational, a test of sorts to see if the recruiting process worked. And it did. Echo Fox’s Czech player Radek Pozler took first in the tournament’s first match, earning more than $40,000 in prize money. Clement "JerkChicken" Graham took fourth place for Echo Fox, earning more than $13,000, in match one as well. Not bad for Echo Fox’s first move into H1Z1.
Its success convinced the organization the Twin Galaxies model of recruiting actually worked. Now Echo Fox has a whole new way to scout potential players.
“There’s a certain amount of vindication that exists because of the process we used to pull our team together,” Hall told Dot Esports. “You can, like the movie Moneyball, statistically build a team, draft, and then have results.” Those results aren’t limited just to H1Z1, either. “I think we’re on to something that could potentially change not only H1Z1, but everything,” Hall added. After all, it gave Echo Fox its first official win—its first championship.
“It’s nice to actually hold the trophy,” Echo Fox owner Rick Fox added.
Using the organization’s unconventional Twin Galaxies model, Echo Fox expects to win more. The process operates similarly to the NFL’s scouting combine, where player skill is determined by testing measurable skills, like the 40 yard dash and bench press exercises. Because these are video games, Twin Galaxies doesn’t measure player’s physical prowess, but instead tracks statistics of player scores. Though it won’t guarantee a team that actually works together, it does ensure a minimum skill criteria for each player, Hall said.
“That’s a big difference than a group of friends that happen to find each other, they get ‘good,’ and then they play in some tournament and they beat other groups of friends that found each other,” he said. “That’s the equivalent of a group of friends finding each other and playing football and then they beat the other group.”
It’s just not an accurate way to measure skill. But analyzing statistics is—and Echo Fox expects the process to work outside of H1Z1. Previously, scouting for Echo Fox meant picking and choosing from the best of the best (who has the most followers) on a streaming service like Twitch. Word of mouth, too, only went so far. Scientific analysis changes this.
“Now that we’ve discovered some science, there’s a whole bunch of thinking now that can take place because if you’re not a personality with a big Twitch following, how do we find you?” Hall said. “I think we’ve started a little shift in esports.”
Echo Fox hasn’t announced exactly what games they’ll use the Twin Galaxies model of scouting for in the future, just that it definitely will use it. “In other cases, we may acquire a team that we think is good and then create a combine around the game itself and start to take in applications and start drafting,” Hall said. “Then [we’ll] reshape the team over time on the basis of what we see coming in there.”
Since TwitchCon 2016, Echo Fox has expanded into new titles, like Gears of War, but more investment is on the horizon. Picking up a fifth and final H1Z1 player is part of that plan. “Technically, we almost have a five-man H1Z1 team,” Hall said. “H1Z1 has fives built into it, there’s team play.”
The survival massively multiplayer game has competitive modes for individual players, groups of two, and teams of five. With four on the Echo Fox H1Z1 team so far, a fifth is inevitable, Hall said. But right now, there just aren’t many major tournaments for the game, but that could change. H1Z1 developer Daybreak has plans for more, though it hasn’t specified what.
Fox’s traditional sports influence is apparent when considering the way he and Hall are looking to scout players for their esports organization. It worked for Echo Fox in the H1Z1 Invitational. Will it work in other titles? If it can, it could esports recruiting forever.
Why one of sports' largest executive search firms is moving into esports
The search firm is looking at pairing seasoned executives with esports franchises.
Writer at @dotesports
One of North America's largest executive search firms will begin offering its services to esports teams.
Prodigy Sports, founded in 2007, is one of the premier services for pairing executives with a wide range of traditional sports teams. Now it's looking at aiding esports teams as well, as Prodigy unveiled its dedicated esports division yesterday.
"Any mature business dedicating resources to esports needs to be able to identify and source leadership like they would for any other area of their organization," Prodigy Sports CEO Scott Carmichael wrote in a press release on the day of the announcement.
In the past few months alone, a considerable amount of non-endemic sponsors and executives have entered the esports industry, many of which Prodigy Sports has worked with .
Little more than a week ago, NBA team Miami Heat announced that it would be entering into a strategic partnership with esports organization Misfits, and in September last year, Team Liquid entered into a similar partnership with aXiomatic, an investment group spearheaded by Golden State Warrior's co-owner Peter Gruber. But despite the unique history and challenges the industry has faced, Carmichael seems convinced that Prodigy can help lead the way forward.
Speaking to Dot Esports, Carmichael explained that he had been paying close attention to esports in the past few years, and realized that when mainstream media began examining the phenomenon, as well as the growing interest the entertainment and sports industries began showing, that Prodigy's move is completely right in time. "I frankly had no choice than to pay attention," Carmichael wrote.
With roughly 10 years worth of experience with executive search, Prodigy Sports has helped some of the biggest traditional North American sports teams and leagues connect with and recruit seasoned executives. Seeing how several of the most established North American sports teams are now branching out into esports, Carmichael is confident that Prodigy Sports' entry into esports will be seamless.
"For any successful organization, in any professional field, but certainly within sports and entertainment, strategic revenue producing executives almost invariably are at the top of the organizational chart. It is with that in mind that we strongly feel that our successes over the past 10 years lend very well to esports, especially as the line between esports and professional sports organizations worldwide becomes more blurred."
Esports has never been as popular as it is currently. Speculated to reach a value of $1 billion by 2019, with a seemingly ever-growing young audience as well as an increasing amount of global companies showing interest, the reality of the situation seems to be that esports has moved past its humble beginnings and is entering its first era of true prosperity.
Issues do still persist within the space, however. Players, teams and on-air talent consistently raise their voices in regards to issues such as fair compensation and conflicts of interest. Carmichael told Dot Esports that one of the many ways he sees the industry moving past such issues is through integration with non-endemic global sponsors and established sports teams taking the business aspect of the industry to the next level.
"In my personal opinion, the further integration with some of the globes’ most valuable sports organizations will continue to rapidly enhance the business of esports and place the industry into the conscientious of a much broader fan base and, as a result, an explosion of exponential revenue potential."
Last year was the biggest in esports history in regards to expansion and proliferation. Now, barely one month into 2017, it's become all the more clear that esports has caught the attention of the entire world.