Chinese Megacompany Investing Hundreds of Millions in eSports Deal

3 years ago
Alibaba Investing Hundreds of Millions in eSports Deal
02 Aug


When I was a kid my parents were constantly exasperated by the sheer number of hours I spent playing the latest sports simulation video games. If only I was as dedicated to Maths and Science they said! Quite understandably they wanted me to focus on my studies rather than trying to win whatever virtual cup I was fighting for. As an adult I look back and now agree with them that I was definitely better off studying!

Kids continue to love video games and it’s even harder for parents today to win the argument as there are now online tournaments, Twitch streaming, YouTube gaming channel opportunities, and the explosion in popularity of eSports to contend with. It is no longer “pie in the sky” for a young person to declare themselves a “professional gamer” and have aspirations of winning a ton of money playing video games. If they have the skills and the tenacity to become the best in the world at their game of choice, it is, at least in theory, a possibility for them. For anyone over the age of 25 it seems a new-age concept, but for young people these days it’s a legitimate life choice for them and it’s about to get even better.

Large companies are always fighting for new customers and what better than to familiarize the next generation of customers with their brand than to sponsor the activities they enjoy participating in the most. Step forward Chinese retail giant Alibaba, who have gotten in early and grasped the opportunities brought about by eSports with a sponsorship deal of a mouthwatering $150 million!

The International eSports Federation, known as the ‘leSF’, is a governing body for eSports. It was founded in South Korea in 2008 and now has 47 member countries. The leSF announced on twitter that they have signed an “Exclusive Strategic Partnership” with Chinese online retailing giant Alibaba, marking a huge moment in the progression of eSports as Alibaba have a company value in excess of $200 billion and are tipped to become the biggest company in the world in the not-too-distant future. On the list of sponsors on any “who do I want to sponsor me” list, Alibaba would be right on top for almost anyone.

The $150 million partnership has three goals. 1. To establish a tournament in which all amateur eSports players and professional eSports players can participate, (extremely exciting) 2. To work together to get eSports recognised as sports, and 3. To create unique intellectual property rights. Point 1 will be of interest to gamers as the prize funds for these big tournaments will be juicy and, let’s say, worth your while in winning.

It is difficult to put into perspective the scale of their plans. Alibaba has created ‘Alisports’ a dedicated arm of their huge brand to focus on eSports and they have announced the first World Electronic Sports Games (WESG) to take place in the next year. The WESG might sound like a nerd's paradise, but wait until you see what they are putting into it! They want the WESG to become the “Olympic Games for eSports” according to Vice President of Alisports, Min Yunhao. If that doesn’t interest you, maybe the $5.5 billion prize fund and the $149 million budget for marketing and development might.

This is going to be huge. The WESG is fully endorsed by the leSF and you can see the strategic partnerships beginning to take shape. Alibaba’s senior corporate partners can bring big projects to fruition so watch this space as the sky really is the limit. They are planning to use chinese sports stadiums to host the events, so if you are an eSports enthusiast you can begin practising in earnest. The rewards for getting good and becoming the best are about to explode in value, just imagine playing your favourite game in front of a packing stadium audience for massive prize money. It’s a brave new world for eSports.

So what games should you begin to practice if you want to gatecrash the party and make a name for yourself in the world of eSports? The main games on twitch and in eSports competitions at present are: League of Legends, which is easily the main staple eSports game at present, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Call of Duty, and the latest version in the FIFA series. FIFA has already received some mainstream coverage with highlights from the World FIFA Championship match making it onto Sky Sports TV in the UK earlier this year. Good luck if you decide to have a go.

I don’t personally play any of the very popular games that are likely to form the basis of the battles for the big money prizes the WESG in association with the leSF and sponsors like Alibaba will offer, but it is really exciting for those willing and able to put in the hours. As a keen gamer myself, it would be amazing to have actual rewards on offer to justify the time I spend playing the games I love. Whilst doing things you enjoy is a great way to spend your time I think it is brilliant that you might be able to win huge rewards and it seems clear to me that eSports is about to get very lucrative indeed.

It reminds me of 2003 in the poker world, just before the big boom. Things are about to get real for eSports.

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Malcolm comes from Consett in the North East of England and is an avid poker player and writer.Read more


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