In recent times, the line between esports and traditional sports has blurred. Esports have experienced a quick rise in viewership leading to some analysts expressing the possibility that esports popularity will eventually overcome that of traditional sports leagues. However, professional sports and esports leagues alike consider themselves partners, not competitors. The NBA 2K League and the ePremier League are both examples of well-known sports leagues jumping into the competitive gaming scene. With the inaugural ePremier League season underway, I will dive into how the league came to be.
Global Sports, and Esports Market
Even casual soccer fans know that Manchester is home to two of the biggest soccer clubs in the world. Manchester United is valued at $4.8 billion (the second most valuable sports franchise in the world). Manchester City is not too far behind on the list, valued at $1.3 billion. In addition, there are millions of City and United supporters worldwide. With FIFA 18 selling over 24 million copies globally, large sporting brands throughout the world hope to tap into the competitive video game market.
Manchester Leads the Way
In 2018, Manchester City was the first team from the Premier League to establish a China-based FIFA Online team. This team competes in the FSL (Online Star League) which is organized by Tencent, a Chinese multinational investment company that is pouring vast amounts of money into esports communities.
In addition, Manchester United joined forces with EA Sports and FIFA 19 to create the ePremier League. This competition began in early January for UK-based competitors only, but its expected that other countries will follow suit.
Both Manchester teams wish to remain connected with their global following. Since esports are relatively new and fully-digital ventures, these teams want to strike while the iron is hot. Large sporting clubs can piggyback their successes in sports with those of esports. Success in traditional sports helps the club stay relevant now while investing in esports will help clubs stay relevant in the future. City and United paved the way for other ePremier League teams to jump into esports, and the ePremier League’s ventures serve as a model that all major professional leagues should follow.
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