Games Sport

The future of (e)sports

I come from a soccer family, you know, traditional sports. Everyone in my family is obsessed by the game. I tried to get into it. I even kinda get it, but I don’t share their obsession for the game. Sure, you’ll see me in a Belgian jersey when World or EU championships is on, and I have a preferred regional team. Hell, I even had a season ticket several years. But still: not even close to what for instance my father, uncle, sister and brother-in-law feel for that game.

The last 5 years I’ve been active in the entertainment industry. I got the chance to see how stories are written, productions are set up and magic is done. In a way there is a lot of the same thing going on: emotional, spectacle, awe, … But it was still a very different universe.

Enter esports

I’m a gamer, so naturally I’ve been keeping my eye on it for several years now, but given my background in entertainment I’m getting more and more excited about what’s going on there. To the point where I’m stalking colleagues and family about it who have no interest in gaming whatsoever. Because more traditional sports need to start paying attention if they want to know what the future looks like. Esports is challenging traditional sports coverage.

Let’s take the LEC, the EU main League Of Legends league by Riot. Not only is it a good example, it is a prime example. They took their cue from more traditional sports: they have a perfectly equipped studio and crew, expert team of analysts and casters and a perfect broadcasting setup. But then they go an extra few miles.

As a Fnatic fan, this hit home.

This is a song by the LEC. In it you see casters. As in the people who add commentary during a game. Do you see soccer casters do that? Oh, you did, once, huh? Well, they’ve been doing it for a while now, it’s not their first rodeo. Moreover: This was in anticipation of just. One. Game. True, it was probably THE game of the season, because a member of team Fnatic went to their biggest rival G2 and they were meeting up for the first time since then, but still… For one game. And besides being an awesome song soundwise, the lyrics have more layers than the biggest onion you’ve ever sliced and the production value of the video is… well, see for yourself, it’s good.

24/7 content

But it’s not just that. As a fan, there is just so much to engage with. All the teams, players, coaches, casters, hosts, analysts and staff have their own, very active, social media channels and are actually playing the game themselves in a lot of cases. The league’s discord is constantly buzzing and they even launched a game hidden in a virtual studio tour ( a mobile-only game, I might add). While you’re watching the games, you have a chance to find drops with exclusive in-game items. There’s a podcast, VOD, … I could go on.
And the crew has a narrative of it’s own, making it very addictive to watch every minute. Mainly because they are that good at what they do and love doing it.

Now imagine the generation that is growing up with this as a standard form of sports entertainment and being asked by their parents to join them in experiencing the World Cup Soccer. What do you think they expect and what will they get?

It’s no wonder soccer teams all over the world are setting up their esports teams. Schalke 04’s team just made it to the play-offs. In League Of Legends, not FIFA 2021, btw. Because it scales. Whether you’re an LoL esporter or prefer FIFA, you just need hardware. You don’t need a soccer field and a basketball court. You do need a good crew per sport, but concerning infrastructure it’s a lot easier to handle.

How about Belgium

Here in Belgium clubs like KV Mechelen, Beerschot and Club Brugge get it. The last one even calls itself an entertainment firm, comparing themselves to Kinepolis or even Studio 100 (dutch article). On a broadcasting level Proximus stepped up their game making esports a pillar in their strategy. Things are stirring up in Belgium and I’m very excited to see what this will bring.

I’m gonna enjoy the LEC Spring play-offs starting today. I’ll leave you with the LEC song to launch that.