Why Coke is expanding beyond League of Legends eSports

31 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Columbia College introduces eSports to campus.

Attendees can watch the International World Championship Finale of League of Legends live from Berlin in the Fremont Community Rooms on the second floor. It’ll mark the culmination of a year’s journey of nail-biting battles and fights that raged from far-flung locations such as Paris, London and Brussels. In October, Coke launched ESports Weekly, which is produced in collaboration with lifestyle site IGN and is livestreamed online Friday evenings at 7 p.m. At Berlin’s Mercedes Benz Arena, a 15,000-strong crowd will witness history being made as the victor is crowned the best in the world, winning a handsome $1 million prize-pot in the process.

Team Dignitas’ decision to part ways with their LoL roster could not have been an easy one for Dignitas owner Michael “ODEE” O’Dell, but due to Riot’s ruling on allowing only one team under an organization in the LCS, O’Dell had no choice but to find his EU team a new home. Eastern on Twitch and IGN before being archived on YouTube. “It’s a 22-minute news program where fans can learn all about what’s going on in eSports and their favorite games,” says Matt Wolf, head of global gaming at Coca-Cola. “We’re able to speak to all of the different games through this show, which features in-depth explorations of games like Blizzard’s StarCraft 2 and Valve’s Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. And it will all be for a game you’ve probably never even heard of – but you should because an expected 30 million people will be watching the final live (more than the NBA Finals); and nearly 70 million play it every week. eSports is competitive video gaming which sees players competing for cash prizes in front of huge audiences.

Rival teams who’ve fallen by the wayside, among the best the world could offer and drawn from intense regional competitions from China to Europe to Korea to North America, won’t leave empty handed thanks to the total tournament prize pool of over $2 million. It allows us to democratize our place in the eSports space.” Wolf says the show will evolve through the end of this year, as fan feedback through live chat and social media is steering the direction of the content, and ultimately molding what the show will be in 2016 and beyond. It took several weeks for the bidding war to end, but it was not the money which swayed O’Dell, but rather the type of person he was selling his team to.

Columbia College President Scott Dalrymple, who last year competed against students in the “Madden NFL 15” video game, said in the news release he thinks the skill shown in video gaming is equally as legitimate as skill shown in traditional sports. The asking price originally was roughly $500K, but O’Dell insisted on making sure his team found new owners which he felt were deserving and capable of looking after them. For example, the weekend of this past August 22nd/23rd marked another milestone in eSports history, when four events across the globe (ESL One Cologne, LCS Europe Finals, LCS North America Finals, and OGN Hearthstone Masters in Korea) drew more than 100k stadium attendees and entertained more than 50m unique enthusiasts worldwide. With over 100 champions available to pick from, the game is incredibly complex and it requires the ability to remain patient but also have an awareness that one split-second decision could lead the team to glory. This year 16 teams qualified for the final rounds, drawn from five regional tournaments which cover North America, Europe, Korea, China, and Taiwan/Hong Kong/Macao among others.

Curtis agrees. “They even go as deep as watching films of other teams,” Curtis said, referring to the way eSport teams scout out their competition. Reporters from ESports Weekly will film interviews during the world championship at the Coke ESports Lounge, which is the largest suite inside Mercedes-Benz Arena. It’s admittedly heavy Asian leaning a with majority of the teams coming from China, Korea and Taiwan but with a surprisingly strong showing this year from the West.

There also hasn’t been much said on who else may have been bidding for the Challenger team, but the choice to go with Follow Esports, while seemingly risky, may have been the correct choice in the end. In gaming terms it’s a MOBA, or multiplayer online battle arena, which first appeared as a fun player-made mod in the Starcraft and Warcraft 3 series over a decade ago. Despite a rocky start in the Group Stage, KOO have been dominant in the latter knockout phase of the tournament, winning 3-1 and 3-0 to secure a spot at the final. It involves two opposing five-player teams, each player controlling a hero as they help push computer-controlled armies to destroy their opponent’s bases on opposing sides of the map.

With a huge mix of champions available (over 100 available for purchase), a large variety of equipment and skills, and a stunning complexity of strategies, all executed with split-second timing, it makes for an exhilarating game often lasting hours or more. As for recruiting, Columbia College is spreading the word about its new sport by posting the news on social media, creating a webpage and working with Epic Ed, a business in Columbia that specializes in eSports.

This sponsorship is a potential tipping point in the relationship between advertisers and eSports.” According to Ed Zhao, business analyst at EEDAR, eSports viewers have been fairly receptive toward brands that have advertised. The Collegiate Star League sets up a schedule, so the Columbia College teams will play against other collegiate teams across the nation, typically on Saturdays. Aside from Red Bull, which hosts its own eSports competitions and livestreams them to the world, the Atlanta-based drink maker stands on its own as an early player in what has become a global phenomenon with over 226 million fans, according to research firm Newzoo. While the West leads the world in technology companies and even arguably videogame development (U,S, based EA and Activision being among the largest), pro-gaming as a money-filled competition has been led by the Asian scene. The coach’s responsibilities will include assisting with recruitment, working with individual players to find their strengths and then working with the teams to create strategies.

South Korea in particular has played an outsized role with a government-sponsored organization, KeSPA (Korea e-Sports Association), giving it credibility and teams receiving major sponsor funding from large Korean corporations. For example, Disney’s media division, which includes ESPN, makes up around 50% of Disney’s profit, far more than their iconic movies or theme parks. Both, however, are very indirect plays as they’re owned by Amazon AMZN, -0.10% and Google, erm Alphabet GOOG, -0.85% respectively and thus play a very minor role in their stock performance.

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