Esports Live: Can the NFL Get Off the Bench?
The roar of the crowd pounds the room with window shaking decibels. The players are tense and ready for action. The loading screens complete and the foray unfolds.
This is the modern reality of Esports live events. Capacity crowds fill stadiums. Cheering fans watching large screens of animated characters doing battle for fictitious goals.
Sports such as football, baseball, and basketball, once dominated the stadium experience. Stadiums that now belongs increasingly to video game competitions.
Money floods into these so-called esports. Sponsorship deals crop up, streaming agreements make bank, and cash prizes bring in hopefuls. Traditional sports seem to be on the way out, but are the benched forever?
The Rush of Esports Live
Esports share most of the same characteristics with traditional sports. The events take place in teams and tournaments throughout a season or year. At the end, the best teams compete in a grand finale.
Players study the strategies of the game, as well as the play styles of other pros.
Succesful players get traded and scouted for one league or team or another.
Presentation demarcates the biggest difference. Esports presentation always requires a screen to see the action, since the games are played in virtual and digital worlds.
At esports live events cameras will sometimes follow the actual players. However, watching someone press buttons doesn’t convey as much significance as watching the results of those button presses.
Spectators show exuberance and intent to be in on the action, whether watching online through a streaming service such as Twitch or YouTube or live in a stadium event.
The separation between the players and the audience is slim. Many of the people watching have played the game and know the moves, the options, the strategies and the jargon.
They ask themselves what they would do. They predict moves and actions. They delight in seeing things they don’t have the timing or instinct to pull off.
The Decline of Traditional Sports
Traditional sports increasingly suffer from bloat. The ability to watch the important matches and follow a team through a season get more expensive and less comfortable with each passing year.
Public broadcasting traditionally offers the big events for free to viewers. The Super Bowl, the NBA playoffs, and the World Series make money from advertisers. Record-breaking costs to both produce and air commercials for the Super Bowl make splashy news items nearly every year.
Merchandising revenues and the need to keep those revenues in-house are also a major issue. While licensed suppliers of quality merchandise such as NFL shop UK provide a value to fans to support the teams, knock-offs flood the market.
Professional leagues and organizations pay ever-increasing legal fees to fight knock-offs and rebroadcasts. Even as the tide of interested parties that don’t seem keen on paying for what they want, rises.
The Triumph of Esports Business Model
Esports products carry an internal advantage over traditional sports. Anyone can simply purchase a football or basketball. Hoops, goals, and fields are even supplied by local communities. Playing a traditional sport comes cheap and little to none of the profit goes to the professional organizations.
While many of the most popular games featured in esports live entertainment are free to play, they have savvy upgrades built into the model.
It costs nothing to download a MOBA such as League of Legends or DOTA 2. Separate avenues exist for players looking to increase their roster of characters and play options. They can earn them by grinding away at the games or they can speed up the process with real-world cash.
These games also feature tons of costumes and player customization options that add no functional advantage in-game except to shovel money into the parent companies. They do that beyond most reasonable projections.
Esports also build in the audience by creating view modes and replays in the game. This is to help players watch their performances and improve, but it shows that broadcasting necessity mindest.
With so much money coming in from the games themselves, esports live under a profit umbrella. Broadcasting tournaments act as a giant commercial for the core product. Merchandise and broadcast fees just pile on the revenue.
Then there is the gambling. Spectators and aficionados looking to ply their knowledge for profit have exploded in the past few years. The general multi-national nature of esports puts it ahead of traditional sports in who can participate, and how quickly.
The NFL Fights Back
The NFL, in particular, shows some concern for the money esports live events generate. Sample deals and pushes into the streaming market from the US sports giant have shown some returns.
The returns don’t reflect a dying industry, but they don’t show enough promise, either. Viewership numbers on platforms such as Yahoo and Verizon show that millions of viewers tune in. Still, nothing on par with the 10s of millions that watch a typical game on television.
If the NFL’s business model continues to be about viewership, then it needs to find a way to increase the customer base. Streaming services could be the window to the wider world.
For streaming to work for traditional sports, they need to take a page out of the esports live playbook. To provide something in the viewing that provides that same interactive passion.
For years fantasy football organizations have longed to create an impact on the game. The NFL’s embrace of these activities constitutes another mixed bag. While some support the fantasy network, others come out against it as weakening the game.
Wrapping it Up
The NFL remains a bigger entity making more money than the top esports organizations. But for how long? Esports continues to rise and NFL viewership declines.
The NFL will either need to change its objectives and practices, or it will need to make a case for why it shouldn’t be compared.
Until recently, efforts to squash comparisons between esports and traditional sports have worked. With more people playing video and electronic games all the time, the breaking point for this dismissal has arrived.
To continue to compete the NFL needs to swap from ignoring their opponents and begin to study and learn from their rivals’ strategies. The way that sports competitions, digital or not, always eventually do.
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