Aug 16 2014 - 8:44 pm

Alliance and Fnatic: Who will win?

It almost seemed inevitable
Samuel Lingle
Dot Esports

It almost seemed inevitable. One team is the best ever in European League of Legends history, the only champion in three seasons of League Championship Series play. The other is the team made to beat them, a “super” team formed around the best player in the world outside of Korea.

It’s been a long time coming. Alliance and Fnatic, the two best teams in Europe, will meet tomorrow to decide the champion of the LCS Summer Split.

Alliance, led by superstar mid laner Henrik “Froggen” Hansen, put together a 21-7 regular season record, winning three of four games against every team in the league, including Fnatic.

Fnatic were their usual inconsistent selves during the season, starting with a 7-0 record before seemingly turning on the engines in that patently Fnatic way and finishing with a 12-2 run, bolstered by MVP play from marksman Martin “Rekkles” Larsson.

It’s the most anticipated match of the season. The two best teams in Europe meet in a game that will answer the question: Who are the kings of Europe?

Unsurprisingly, Alliance enters the series with a small statistical advantage, as indicated by the two extra wins they earned during the season. They have a better KDA, 5.32 against 4.73, as well as a slightly higher GPM mark, 1711 over 1695. But while Alliance is focused on scoring early kills, as shown by their 66.67 percent first blood rate, Fnatic is more aggressive taking early objectives.

The defending champions took first tower in 68.75 percent of their games, compared to less than half the time for Alliance.

One oddity is first dragons: the teams are basically even at securing them around 50 percent of the time, but both teams managed to win 93.75 percent of the games they took them. Those early dragons may become pivotal in deciding the outcome of the game.

The key lane matchups are each of the team’s star players. In the mid lane, Alliance captain Hansen will battle Fnatic captain Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martínez, a legend in his own right. But this season Hansen has clearly outperformed the Fnatic man, posting a 6.94 KDA and 80 percent kill participation against a 4.74 KDA and 68.45 percent participation for Martinez. The matchup itself isn’t likely to be an explosive one in-game. While Hansen prefers to battle playmaking champions like Xerath and Twisted Fate, Martinez often chooses safe farming laners like Ziggs and Orianna.

The real battle may be in the bottom lane. Larsson put together arguably the best season ever for an AD carry player, but Erik “TabzZ” van Helvert was right on his heels. The real difference may come from their supports. While Patrick "Nyph" Funke put together a very solid season for a support, Fnatic’s Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim was simply superb. Kim put up a whopping 37 kills, nearly three times Funke’s number, while tallying a better KDA, showing Kim’s aggressive play may be the key to winning the lane.

Overall, the stats paint the picture of a close-fought series. Neither team has a big advantage in any one aspect of the game, which means we should be in store for a great series. The team that wins will likely be the one that comes to the match better prepared, with a better strategy for neutralizing their opponent. Still, you have to call Alliance a slight favorite, based off their results over the course of the season.

Screengrab via Riot Games/YouTube

Today - 4:07 pm

Esports aren't selling out, they're just making money—and fans need to learn the difference

If you want esports to grow, you've got to accept that businesses need to make money.
Thiemo Brautigam
Dot Esports
Photo via Negative Space

A couple of hours into ESL One Genting earlier this month, host Paul “ReDeYe” Chaloner announced the event’s sponsors. The response was entirely predictable: People complained. Lots of them. Chaloner was sick of it.

It’s almost a guarantee at this point. As soon as an event host does what he or she is contracted to do—give sponsor shout-outs—viewers get angry. “Sell-out!” they cry. Different occasion, same idiocy: A news outlet publishes an article with a headline that makes readers actually want to read it. “Clickbait!” they mourn.

In either case, I can’t help but think: “Are you serious?”

You want to enjoy your content without these so-called “sell-outs?” Well, in turn, you’d have to pay for access. You don’t want to pay? Stop complaining, then. There we have it. Easy as that. I could stop writing at this point—’nuff said—but I won’t. I can’t escape the feeling that many esports enthusiasts simply don’t get it. So, I’m going to shine a little light on the economic necessities.

Numbers on the global esports market are contradictory. Depending on which analyst you believe, the total market was valued somewhere between $500 million to $1 billion in 2016. Tellingly, there’s less discrepancy when it comes to the share of sponsorships and advertising. About 70 percent of the market is “indirect revenues,” or simply put, brands spending money for ads and sponsor appearances.

That’s a huge chunk of the money that’s floating around in esports. Sure, traditional sports are loaded with ads and sponsors too. Formula 1 driver suits are plastered with brand logos, NBA broadcasts display more ads than action, and a lot of people only watch the Super Bowl because of its hilariously expensive commercials. These sports all have something else in common, though. Highly profitable sources of revenue like merchandise, ticket sales, and—most importantly—TV deals.

Esports hasn’t established these sources of income to the same extent—yet. And the industry even shies away from it to some degree. That’s reasonable. Nothing is more cringeworthy than a stadium-event without a crowd, which is why tickets are still comparatively cheap. The same holds true for merch. “Better sell some than none” seems to be the dominant motto for most orgs. TV deals for exclusive broadcast rights are barely heard of, though many are clearly in the making.

One of the reasons for all this is deeply grounded in how most fans—the millennials—grew up using the internet. They’re used to online access to everything, instantly, and for free. This is where the conflict stems from. The fans want esports to be entertaining. They want a flawless production from the organizer, high-end performances from the players, and thrilling storylines from the media. But they don’t want to pay for it.

Everything comes at a price, though. Today, esports is part of the mass media entertainment industry. It’s not a hobby. It’s not predominantly relying on passion anymore, it depends on money. For many, it has become a career that’s supposed to pay the bills. Which is great! It’s a dream come true for a generation of gamers and nerds.

As fans, it’s equally awesome. They’re lucky enough to be able to enjoy esports almost 24/7. Esports is always on. But someone has to make that happen. Someone needs to prepare those puns you laugh at, someone has to gather those statistics you wow at, and someone has to practice again and again to impress you with amazing skills. It’s work. A lot of work. And thankfully, it’s paying people more or less competitively nowadays. That wouldn’t be possible without you looking at an ad or logo every once in awhile. To me, it sounds like a fair trade.

So, the next time you feel the need to shout “sell-out,” better stay quiet and be grateful that someone else paid for what you enjoy.

Today - 2:30 pm

Indian billionaire and sports club owner set to invest $15 million into esports

He helped to turn Kabaddi into India’s second most watched sport. Now, he's eyeing esports.
Thiemo Brautigam
Dot Esports
Photo via Nicholas Raymond (CC BY 2.0)

Indian self-made billionaire Ronnie Screwvala knows how to transform a fringe sport into a spectator sport. He was vital in turning Kabaddi, an ancient Indian contact sport, into the country’s second most watched sport. Now, he’s looking to do the same thing with esports. Screwvala is set to invest about $15m into the launch of India’s first major esports league, according to reports in multiple national news outlets.

The “UCypher” league will feature 10 teams competing in PC, console, and mobile games. Neither the teams nor the games were revealed, yet. Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, FIFA, and Clash of Clans are likely to be the frontrunners for selection, according to Indian sports news Sportskeeda, which spoke with a player familiar with the situation.

The first of two annual seasons is set to start in May. His company, USports, which is running the league, is in talks with TV stations to negotiate broadcast rights.

Screwvala’s media conglomerate UTV, founded in 1990, produced some of Bollywood’s most successful blockbusters and was responsible for starting the careers of many of today’s biggest Bollywood stars.

In 2012, Disney completed the acquisition of UTV in a $454 million deal, a process that began in September 2006 with taking over a 14.9 percent stake. Screwvala left the company in 2013 to focus on private equity investments in ecommerce and philanthropy programs in higher education. 

Screwvala is also owner of U Mumba, a Mumbai-based Kabaddi team participating in the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL). The league was founded in 2014 but quickly established Kabaddi as India’s second most watched sports after cricket. PKL clubs received popular funding from some of Bollywood biggest movie stars, partially due to Screwvala's efforts and networking.

Esports in India is still small by international measures but has high-potential for growth, attracting the interest of brands like PepsiCo, Flipkart, and BenQ, which all hosted esports events last year. European esports tournament organizer ESL, meanwhile, launched the ESL India Premiership, the country’s first annual tournament series boasting a record prize pool of $64,000.

That figure that easily could be dwarfed thanks to Screwvala’s deep pockets. Assuming he and his peers from USport did their homework, India’s esports scene will witness a heavy boost this year.

After all, for someone who helped transform an ancient sport into a national pastime, taking esports to the mainstream shouldn’t be a big deal.