The media wants more access, and eSports organizations want the freedom to opt out of that access. No matter which way you slice it, there’s no easy answer.
Should media access to players and post-match press conferences be mandatory at major esports events? The ongoing question was brought up by former Yahoo! Esports Director Travis Gafford, who while covering the League of Legends World Championships in China tweeted the following: “It only took about 75 seconds for me to hear “Immortals has declined all interview requests” after that game finished.”
Esports (without the “E”)
As esports continues to move more in line with its traditional sports bretheren, looking at the policies of traditional sports leagues can provide context to this issue. The most popular professional sport in the United States, the NFL, mandates Super Bowl attendees to be available to journalists during their annual media day. In 2015, at Super Bowl XLIX in Phoenix, Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch came to the stage. “I’m here so I won’t get fined,” Lynch replied to every single question.
While his remarks are now a trademarked joke, there’s an underlying point. While not entirely productive, Lynch at least appeared at the event. Also, the NFL has a pre- and post-game policy regarding media access:
“After a reasonable waiting period, defined as 10-12 minutes maximum after the completion of the game and the players have entered the locker room, the home and visiting team locker room areas will be opened to all accredited media with immediate access to all players and the head coach.”
Traditional sports leagues see working with media as a symbiotic relationship; media creates the content which fans consume which then turns into revenue for both parties. However with esports, universal access hasn’t been as consistent. Media is not always guaranteed access to players, coaches and organizational staff — and the issue goes much deeper than simply not being able to do interviews with players that have just lost a match.
Friend or foe?
It’s no secret that esports doesn’t always get along with the media. Players, coaches and owners have made it known that the media isn’t a priority and that — at times — it is a privilege to talk to them.
As one former Counter-Strike: Global Offensive manager said, “We don’t owe the media anything.” They weren’t wrong, either — without statutes in place, there’s no requirement for teams to do anything with the media if they so choose.
Take for instance Dota 2’s yearly world championship, The International. The event, just like most, has a media day where teams come down and meet with journalists and do various interviews. But unlike other developers or tournament organizers, Valve does not facilitate these interactions. It creates a risky scenario for press outlets hoping to cover the event: those who show up without industry contacts may be unable to garner a single interview, and especially for non-endemic outlets this can become a wasted coverage investment.
Be careful what you ask for
In situations like the latest League of Legends World Championships and The International, it’s easy to see where the frustration comes from. When there’s no guarantee the largest events of the year won’t yield the results outlets are looking for, who wouldn’t be? However, some events are starting to get on board with mandatory press conferences — and it’s not as simple a solution as some would imagine.
ELEAGUE attempted to increase media access during their Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major held back in January. The organizer asked the winning teams to do press conference immediately after their matches and while some teams obliged, bringing their entire roster, other teams sent only one or two players — and some didn’t show up at all.
As the discussion continues, one major theme in regards to players, coaches, and team staff have separated themselves from the rest: esports players aren’t always prepared for life in the spotlight.
The above reason isn’t just a lazy excuse, either. Good players in the esports space can rise to prominence quickly; according to a study by ESPN, esports players are as much as five years younger than their traditional sports peers. This sometimes comes at the cost of post-secondary education and life experience. Going from playing a video game in a bedroom to competing on a stage in front of millions with the hounds of Reddit scrutinizing a player’s every move is hardly a smooth transition, either.
Given all that, is it really that hard to believe that not everybody is prepared for the spotlight? Nobody wants to see a sobbing teenager pelted with questions right after a loss, or an angry player lose control and say something in the moment that could damage their career forever — and when media demands access no matter what, teams often do (and in many cases, should!) push to protect their teams from those types of situations.
So what now?
It’s fair to say that there’s not a lot of trust between esports organizations and the media right now. Plenty of people on the organizational side have heard a horror story or two about overreaching media figures who push too hard when working with talent. Likewise, the frustration of inconsistent access continues to be a thorn in the side of outlets looking to enrich the space with deeper narratives. But at the end of the day, it’s not one side or the other that has to give. Both can be better.
On the organizational side, it will continue to be important that players be educated on how to live life in the public eye, and help guide young players as they learn how to navigate that lifestyle — which certainly includes media relations. It will also be important to come to grips with the fact that all press won’t be good press. Leagues, teams, players, talent and everybody in between are capable of making mistakes, and the media should feel comfortable to talk responsibly about the positive and the negative sides of esports without fear of retaliation.
Media can continue to improve, as well. As young a space as esports is, esports coverage is even younger. The word ‘responsibly’ is bolded above for a reason; it’s not uncommon to see coverage that blurs the line between opinion and fact, nor are stories of players feeling unfairly pressured or miscontextualized during interviews. As players and teams mature, so must the industry that covers them.
Will the two sides be able to come together? For the sake of everybody involved, let’s hope so.
The Rise of Esports In Canada
The Canadian esports industry has enjoyed a remarkable growth curve in recent years and it should continue to flourish during this new age of contagion. Many esports firms have opted to go public in Canada as its stock exchanges impose fewer regulations than their prominent US counterparts. That has seen Canadian capital markets play a central role in driving the global esports boom.
Competitive gaming is also growing increasingly popular in Canada. Last year, analytics firm NewZoo revealed that 1.5 million Canadians watch esports on a monthly basis. That figure has spiked in 2020 after traditional sporting events were postponed as a result of the Covid-19.
Fans cannot pack out stadiums to watch their favourite CS:GO, Dota 2 and LoL stars in action right now. However, the events have gone digital instead, allowing viewers to enjoy gripping action 24/7 during the lockdown.
Players Become Millionaires
A decade ago, competitive gaming was a niche, underground pursuit in Canada. The first star gamer to put the country on the map was Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling, who led Evil Geniuses to victory in The International 2015. By that point, The International had firmly established itself as the world’s richest esports tournament, and prize money that year stood at a cool $18.4 million (US dollars).
Aui_2000 and his four teammates took home a first prize of more than $6.6 million, making him an overnight millionaire and inspiring legions of young Canadians to follow in his footsteps. Aui_2000 has never managed to scale such impressive heights again, but Artour “Arteezy” Babaev has flown the flag for Canada with aplomb on the Dota 2 scene.
Arteezy is now a key member of the Evil Geniuses Dota 2 team, and he helped them finish third at The International 2018. Teammate Tal “Fly” Aizik is an Israeli/Canadian pro, with career earnings of $2.4 million. That makes him the highest-paid Canadian gamer of all time, ahead of Arteezy, who has earned $2.25 million, and Aui_2000 with $2 million.
Hayden “Elevate” Krueger also hit headlines when he secured a third placed finish in the duos event at last year’s Fortnite World Cup. He was just 16 years old at the time, and in one fell swoop he earned a $955,000 prize.
Williams “Zayt” Aubin, a 19-year-old Canadian, finished fourth in the duos event at the Fortnite World Cup, netting $750,000. He is now 20 and his career earnings stand at $1.1 million.
CS:GO is actually the most popular esports game in Canada. There are 19 pro squads in the country, and it has yielded many famous players, including Twistzz, NAF, stanislaw and shroud. Canada also has a thriving StarCraft II scene, while the likes of SquishyMuffinz and JKnaps have flourished at Rocket League.
Mergers and Acquisitions Spell Big Business
The success of these players has fuelled considerable interest in pro gaming among Canadians. Yet the country plays an even more important role behind the scenes. Both domestic and international companies have listed on the TSX, TSXV and CSE as a result of the favourable regulatory framework it offers.
This has led to a raft of opportunities for investors and legal professionals in Canada, creating jobs and boosting the economy, while putting the country at the centre of a thriving global industry.
We have seen some large mergers and acquisitions over the past year. On August 30, 2019, a Canadian esports behemoth was formed when Aquilini GameCo Inc. completed its acquisition of Luminosity Gaming Inc. and Luminosity Gaming (USA), LLC, as well as its subsequent amalgamation with J55 Capital Corp. The enlarged firm, Enthusiast Gaming Holdings Inc., now owns eight esports teams, including the popular Vancouver Titans Overwatch League franchise, along with 40 esports influencers, more than 100 gaming media websites, and more than 900 YouTube and Twitch channels.
A Flourishing Scene
Canada is now a hotbed for esports teams, streamers and publishers. Last year, the country’s largest dedicated esports arena opened in the heart of downtown Montreal. The Esports Central Gaming Complex boasts 94 cutting-edge PCs, 26 consoles, six racing simulators, two Virtuix Omni VR stations and more.
“It’s more than just entertainment, we’re here to unite the gaming community under one roof,” said Delilah Kanou, Esports Central’s president. “It’s a place to grow and thrive, with a supportive network of like-minded gamers. It’s the destination where future esports champions will emerge.”
Social distancing is the name of the game right now, but projects like Esports Central will help the competitive gaming scene flourish long into the future in Canada. The popularity of the scene will continue to soar in the years ahead. In 2019, NewZoo revealed that there were 450 million esports viewers around the world.
That figure will soar in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus lockdown. Gambling companies have reported a surge in demand for esports wagering markets during the absence of traditional sport and, as you can see here, there are a number of exciting options for fans to choose from.
The Sky is the Limit
It shows just how mainstream the esports scene is becoming. Fans of hockey, football and basketball might have previously written off pro gaming as the domain of nerdy types and shown zero interest in esports. Now they are clamouring to watch Dota 2, CS:GO and Rocket League tournaments.
Pro gamers are now multimillionaires with massive social media followings and highly aspirational lifestyles. Canadian gamers relate to them and want to follow in their footsteps, and this trend should one day help esports usurp traditional sports in the popularity stakes.
That might sound far-fetched, but competitive gaming is still in its infancy and it is already more popular than many traditional sports. It significantly over-indexes among teenagers and young adults, and they are the future. It will continue to become more exciting and dynamic each year thanks to advances in technology such as AR and VR, while traditional sports will remain staid and static.
Esports has the potential to become the most popular form of entertainment in the world, and Canada has the opportunity to remain at the heart of the trend. The future looks very bright indeed.
85% pause activity as esports tops the betting bill in Germany
The unrepresentative survey, which was conducted as a poll amongst members of the MySportwetten.de community, was set up to indicate just how much the betting world in Germany has changed as a result of COVID-19.
For the period 17-23 April, it investigated to what extent bettors are still placing bets, on which sports they are currently betting, and which online gambling alternatives they are using while their favourite sports and leagues are being paused.
While 14.9% of the participants said that they are still placing bets, 85.1% said that they have paused betting activities – a result that correlates with the numbers released by the country’s sports betting federation Deutscher Sportwettenverband (DSWV), which estimated that the loss of revenue for most betting brands was higher than 90%.
Added to that, 77% of the MySportwetten.de members surveyed have not just stopped betting but also their whole online gambling activities. 5% are still playing online poker or using online casinos while, interestingly, 3.1% have started trading on the stock market.
In terms of sports still available for betting, esports is getting by far the most attention from the MySportwetten.de betting community. An impressive 75% of those still active are placing their money on esports bets. Football, usually the clear number one in the German betting world, comes in with just 7.1%.
Scoring surprisingly well is table tennis bets (14.3%). There were also some participants (3.6%) who mentioned darts as their number one sport to currently bet on.
It will be interesting to see how these betting trends develop over the coming weeks, particularly as rumours persist over the imminent return of the German Bundesliga – alongside more tentative stories around ‘Project Restart’ for the Premier League.
The full results of the survey can be viewed in German HERE.
GARETH BALE LAUNCHES NEW ELLEVENS ESPORTS TEAM WITH GLOBAL SEARCH TO RECRUIT WORLD-CLASS GAMERS
- Football icon Gareth Bale is the co-owner of new esports venture Ellevens Esports, which is launching with a FIFA team
- Gamers are invited to take part in a global talent search to find players to join the Ellevens team. Visit ellevens-esports.com for more information
- Fans can engage with the latest team news via Gareth Bale’s social media and can watch the side compete in the FIFA eClub World Cup in Milan in February
Real Madrid and Wales football superstar Gareth Bale has today launched a brand new esports organisation called Ellevens Esports. The franchise initially launches with a FIFA team and will make its competitive tournament debut in the prestigious FIFA eClub World Cup this February 2020.
Gareth Bale is inviting gamers worldwide to take part in an open talent search which offers the chance to join Ellevens Esports on a professional esports contract. Ellevens is set to expand across a range of further esports platforms such as Fortnite, Rocket League and CS:GO. Gamers can register at ellevens-esports.com for further information.
Four-time UEFA Champions League winner Gareth Bale said: “On the pitch, my goal is always to win. With Ellevens Esports, that winning attitude is just as important. There are similarities between football and esports in that it takes real dedication and sacrifice to reach the top of your game.”
“I am looking to recruit a team of world-class players for Ellevens across a variety of games. Unearthing new talent is an exciting part of the process and it’s been really exciting to be involved in selecting our line-up of players so far!”
Gareth Bale features in a launch video for Ellevens alongside professional FIFA players Pedro Resende, Ethan Higgins and Tyler Phillips, and content creator Tom Linnell.
Galactico Gareth Bale joins a list of stellar sporting names including Michael Jordan and Odell Beckham Jr, who have recently invested into the world of competitive esports gaming. The industry has seen significant growth in recent years, with worldwide industry revenues reaching $1Billion in 2019.
Prize funds for esports tournaments have also grown, with the Fortnite World Cup 2019 solo prize winning 16-year-old, Kyle [Bugha] Giersdorf, taking home $3,025,900, even exceeding the prize money won by Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon $2,983,748 and Tiger Woods for his Masters win $2,070,000.
Ellevens Esports is co-owned by Gareth Bale and 38 Entertainment Group. 38 Entertainment is founded by investor and entrepreneur Jonathan Kark and former professional footballer Larry Cohen.
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