• Vesna Drofenik

Lucrative match: The impact of esports on local communities

Updated: Feb 4

Esports has been a hot topic, perhaps it’s even become a buzzword in recent years. And it’s no surprise – every year, more global brands commit to the industry, making for exciting headlines and attracting more investors looking to jump into the growing market. The impact of the growing esports industry has also been felt locally as elite teams and competitive events find their space in the real world.


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According to Newzoo, the esports industry surpassed the threshold of $1 billion in total revenue for the first time in 2019, and revenues are projected to continue to grow with a compounded annual growth rate of 9% in the period 2018-2022. As non-endemic brands like Kia Motorsand MasterCard jump in with multi-year sponsorship contracts, they also send strong signals promising sustained growth to potential investors.


While the total sum of all esports investments in 2019 ($1.95 billion) showed a decrease from the total sum of investments raised in 2018 (a record $4.52 billion), this was no indication that the industry was slowing down. A healthy wave of large-ticket investment rounds peppered the year, which was crowned by the successful NASDAQ initial public offering of Chinese live-streaming service DouYu at a valuation of $4 billion in July.


Big brand sponsorship deals, investment rounds, and joint ventures are great, but their impact on stakeholders outside of the elite circle may not be felt directly – or immediately. Impact does spread out to a wider circle of businesses, players, and fans eventually, however, in a juxtaposition of effects that are unique to esports.


The championship comes to town


Although online viewership is likely to stay a key metric when it comes to esports, several franchises have demonstrated a strong potential and demand for live, physical events as well. In a phenomenon remarkedly similar to traditional sports events, fans have flocked to cities hosting both regional as well as world championships in beloved esports leagues to support their favourite teams and players. Host cities have reported a positive direct economic impact from increased tourism, including an increase of revenues in the hospitality and cultural industries.


A notable example is the championship league run by Riot Games, the developer and publisher behind what’s arguably the world’s most successful esports title, League of Legends. The League of Legends World Championship (or Worlds for short) occurs once a year, with competitors qualifying from regional championship leagues covering either single countries (China’s LPL or South Korea’s LCK, for example) or regions (the LEC covering Europe or the LCS covering North America). The World Championship series is hosted by a different region each year: 2019’s Worlds took place in Europe (Madrid, Berlin, Paris), while the upcoming 2020 and 2021 Worlds are slated to take place in China (Shanghai) and North America, respectively.


Riot Games revamped the structure of the highest-tier championship in 2019, renaming what was previously known as the EU LCS to today’s LEC in order to develop the European championship into a stronger entertainment franchise and to better distinguish it from its North American counterpart. It also kicked off a host city program inspired by traditional sports structures, where cities are able to apply to Riot as candidates to host championship finals as far as two years in advance.


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Both regional leagues are consistently keeping their audiences engaged throughout each Split – so much so that even the finals for each half season, called the Spring and Summer Split, have shown to attract large numbers of fans who make the trip to whichever city is hosting a given final event. In mid-2019, Riot Games reported that the first LEC Spring Split Finals, held in Rotterdam, Netherlands on 13-14 April 2019, had contributed over €2 million to the local economy. Over 87% of the attendees had come from outside the city and had spent an average of €53 per day during their stay in Rotterdam. Following the conclusion of the Summer Split, Riot released a recap of the LCS season stating that the Summer Split Finals held in Detroit, Michigan, US, had contributed $5.44 million to the local economy. For the 2020 season finals, the LEC is heading to Budapest, Hungary, and Malmö, Sweden while the LCS Spring Split Finals will be hosted in the city of Frisco, just north of Dallas, Texas, US.


However, it’s not just the big players making waves – smaller esports have also reported significant economic impact resulting from their offline activities. Greater Raleigh, a nine-county metropolitan area around the cities of Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina, US, reportedly saw $1.45 million in direct economic impact from the Rainbow Six Siege Raleigh Major event held in August 2019. The Major attracted over 2600 attendees over three days, with more than 70% of visitors coming from other US states or even countries. What’s also important for the Raleigh area, also known as the Research Triangle and home to numerous tech companies and video game development studios, is that more than 1000 inquiries for local video game industry jobs were reported over the course of the weekend. Which brings me to my next point …


Employment & Government Incentives


With esports and related industries comes a strong potential for high-value job creation as well, many local or even state governments around the world have grasped. The trend seems to be strongest in Asia, where several successful initiatives and government-backed projects have kicked off over the past few years. Perhaps most notable was the move by Malaysian Minister for Youth and Sports, Syed Saddiq, who helped allocate $2.4 million of the country’s annual budget to esports. The industry welcomed this news, with several tech entrepreneur including Razer CEO, Min-Liang Tan, to match the committed funds.


Much of the government activity in the Eastern region has been on a municipal level, however – the Tokyo Metropolitan Government allocated ¥50 million (about €450,000) in its fiscal year 2019 budget for a two-day esports event hosted by the city. As for China, a country which has generally been covered in gaming-related news for its stringent regulation policies, several municipalities have been building so-called “esports towns.” Hangzhou city notably opened its 17,000 sq. meter esports complex in November 2018 and intends to spend up to a total of ¥15.45 billion RMB (€2.05 billion) on the project, which will include an esports academy, hotel, theme park, business center, and even a hospital, by 2022. The city is slated to host the 2020 Asian Games, which will feature esports as a medal event for the first time. The city of Xi’anhas also invited esports-related companies to open offices in the area, promising to reward them with a maximum of ¥100 million RMB (€13.24 million) if they decide to do so. Hainan, the country’s southernmost island province, has also announced an esports development fund worth a sum of ¥1 billion RMB (€134 million) dedicated to supporting esports talent development, tournaments, streaming, international visa applications, and a zero tariff and low tax rate policy for applicable companies.


Source: Shutterstock


Though Western governments and municipalities have not shown such bold ambition as their Eastern counterparts just yet, great examples of government incentives targeted at the esports industry have started popping up here as well. Perhaps most notable is the Esports Stadium Arlington in Arlington, Texas, which officially opened to the public in November 2018. The city spent $10 million to construct the stadium and has signed a 10-year lease to NGAGE Esports, which is responsible for booking and managing events hosted by the venue and securing sponsorships, for example one with NVIDIA GeForce. ESA has since hosted a number of high-level events, including the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive ECS Season 8 Finals in late 2019.


Other municipalities have focused on attracting esports talent by offering grants and tax refunds. Misfits Gaming Group, one of the leading esports organizations in North America, has decided to consolidate its presence in the market by opening a new HQ in Boca Raton, Florida, US in 2021, worth $1.3 million. The organization has revealed that local and state authorities will provide over $200,000 in grants and tax refunds to support the relocation, supported by Misfits Gaming’s plans to create at least 30 new jobs.


Several government-supported esports projects are planned or under way in Europe, too. In the UK, the Weavr Consortium, led by ESL UK, was awarded a two-year grand of £4 million in government funding by the UKRI in 2019. The consortium seeks to create 45 tech-focused jobs in order to develop a new platform aimed at transforming the sports experience for remote audiences. On the mainland, the Danish Growth Fund led the latest €10 million investment round raised by RFRSH Entertainment, owners of the Astralis esports team and operators of the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive BLAST Pro Series.


Dobičkonosna tekma: Vpliv ešporta na lokalne skupnosti


Ešport je v zadnjih letih postal vroča tema, morda celo modna beseda. Takšno dogajanje ne preseneča, saj vsako leto vse več globalnih blagovnih znamk vstopa v ešportno industrijo, kar ustvarja vznemirljive naslovnice in privlači rastoče število investitorjev, ki vstopajo na trg. Vpliv ešportne industrije se čuti tudi v lokalnem prostoru, saj elitne ekipe in tekmovalni dogodki potekajo v stvarnem svetu, ne zgolj digitalnem.


Glede na platformo Newzoo, je ešportna industrija v letu 2019 prvič presegla mejo milijarde dolarjev skupnih prihodkov, pri čemer se predvideva, da bodo prihodki še naprej rasli z letno stopnjo rasti 9% v obdobju 2018-2022. Ko znamke, kot so Kia Motors in Mastercard sklepajo večletne sponzorske pogodbe, prav tako pošiljajo močne signale trajne rasti potencialnim investitorjem.


Medtem, ko se je skupna vsota vseh ešportnih naložb v letu 2019 (1,95 milijarde dolarjev) zmanjšala od skupne vsote naložb, zbranih v letu 2018 (rekordnih 4,52 milijarde dolarjev), to še ni pokazatelj, da se industrija upočasnjuje. Leto je začinilo več uspešnih investicijskih rund, kronano pa je bilo z julijsko uspešno javno ponudbo kitajske storitve pretakanja v živo DouYu, ocenjeno na 4 milijarde dolarjev.


Pogodbe z velikimi znamkami, investicijske runde in skupni posli so dober znak, vendar pa njihov vpliv na delničarje zunaj elitnega kroga ni čuten neposredno ali nemudoma. Vpliv se eventualno razširi na širši krog podjetij, igralcev in oboževalcev, in sicer v kombinaciji učinkov, ki so značilne za ešport.


Prvenstvo prihaja v mesto


Čeprav bo spletni ogled verjetno ostal glavno merilo uspešnosti ešporta, so mnoge franšize prikazale močan potencial in povpraševanje za ogled ešportnih tekem v živo. Na način, ki je presenetljivo podoben tradicionalnemu športu, so oboževalci preplavili mesta, ki gostijo regijska in svetovna prvenstva v priljubljenih ešportnih ligah, z namenom podpreti svoje najljubše ekipe in igralce. Gostujoča mesta poročajo o pozitivnem neposrednem ekonomskem vplivu zaradi povečanega turizma, vključno s povečanjem prihodkov v gostinski in kulturni industriji.


Pomemben primer je prvenstvena liga, upravljana s strani Riot Games, razvijalcem in založnikom ene izmed svetovno najuspešnejših ešportnih iger, League of Legends. Svetovno prvenstvo v omenjeni igri poteka enkrat letno, pri čemer udeleženci zastopajo posamezne države (npr. Kitajski LPL ali Južnokorejski LCK) ali regije (npr. LEC pokriva Evropo, LCS pa Severno Ameriko). Svetovno prvenstvo vsako leto gosti različna regija: za leto 2019 je potekalo v Evropi (Madrid, Berlin, Pariz), medtem ko naj bi prvenstvi v letih 2020 in 2021 potekali na Kitajskem (Šanghaj) in v Severni Ameriki.


Riot Games je spremenil strukturo najvišje ravni prvenstva v letu 2019, pri čemer je preimenoval EU LCS v LEC, da bi razvil evropsko prvenstvo v močnejšo franšizo in jo bolj ločil od severno ameriške različice. Prav tako so pričeli s programom gostujočega mesta, navdihnjenim s strani tradicionalnih športnih običajev, pri čemer se lahko mesta, ki kandidirajo, prijavijo kot kandidati za gostitev prvenstva do dve leti vnaprej.


Regionalne lige vztrajno pritegnejo velike množice do te mere, da že finale, ki poteka na vsako polovico sezone, v gostujoča mesta privabi veliko število ljudi. Sredi leta 2019 je tako Riot Games poročal, da je finale v Rotterdamu od 13. do 14. aprila lokalnemu gospodarstvu prinesel preko 2 milijona evrov. Več kot 87% udeležencev je prispelo iz drugih mest in v Rotterdamu potrošilo povprečno 53 evrov dnevno. V povzetku sezone je bilo nadalje poročano, da je poletni finale v Detroitu, ZDA, lokalnemu gospodarstvu prispeval 5,44 milijona dolarjev. V letu 2020 naj bi bil sezonski finale izveden v Budimpešti, na Madžarskem in v Malmu, na Švedskem, medtem ko bo pomladni finale izveden v Friscu, severno od Dallasa, ZDA.


Velikih zaslužkov pa ne ustvarjajo le velika ešportna imena, temveč tudi manjši ešportniki. Metropolitansko območje okoli mest Raleigh in Durham v Severni Kaliforniji, ZDA, je v avgustu 2019 občutilo pozitivni gospodarski učinek v višini 1,45 milijona dolarjev zaradi tekmovanja Rainbow Six Siege Raleigh. Slednje je privabilo preko 2600 udeležencev v treh dneh, 70% pa jih je prispelo iz drugih zveznih držav ali držav izven ZDA. Za obravnavano območje, sedež mnogih tehnoloških podjetij in razvijalcev video iger, je bil pomemben tudi podatek, da je bilo tekom tekmovanja zabeleženih več kot 1000 poizvedovanj po lokalnih zaposlitvah v igričarski industriji.


Zaposlitev in državne spodbude


Z ešportom in sorodnimi industrijami je povezan močan potencial za ustvarjanje delovnih mest z visoko vrednostjo, kar mnoge lokalne in državne oblasti že razumejo. Trend je najmočnejši v Aziji, kjer se je v zadnjih letih odvilo več uspešnih pobud in državno podprtih projektov. Morda najopaznejši je prišel s strani Malezijskega ministra za mladino in šport, Syeda Saddiqa, ki je pripomorel k dodelitvi več kot 2,4 milijona dolarjev državnega proračuna za ešport. Industrija je pozdravila navedeno novico, pri čemer se je več tehnoloških podjetnikov, vključno s CEO-jem podjetja Razer, Min-Liang Tanom, zavezalo izenačiti znesek namenjenih državnih sredstev.


Večina državnih aktivnosti v Azijski regiji je načeloma potekalo na občinski ravni - mestna vlada Tokija je npr. v proračunu za leto 2019 za dvodnevni športni dogodek, ki ga je gostilo mesto, namenila približno 450.000 evrov. Kitajska, ki je načeloma znana po svoji ostri ešportni regulacijski politiki, je v večih regijah pričela z gradnjo t.i. ešportnih mest. Mesto Hangzhou je tako v novembru 2018 odprlo ešportni kompleks, velik 17.000 kvadratnih metrov in namerava za projekt do leta 2022 porabiti 2,05 milijona evrov. Vključeval bo ešportno akademijo, hotel, tematski park, poslovni center in celo bolnišnico. Mesto naj bi gostilo 2020 Asian Games, ki bo prvič vključeval ešport kot disciplino, za katero se podeljujejo kolajne. Mesto Xi’an je prav tako povabilo podjetja, povezana z ešportom, da v območju odprejo pisarne, z obljubo dobrih 13 milijonov evrov, če se za to odločijo. Najbolj južna otoška provinca države, Hainan, je prav tako napovedala ešportni razvojni sklad v višini 134 milijonov evrov, namenjen podpori ešportnih talentov, turnirjev, pretočnih storitev, prijav za mednarodne vize ter politiki nične tarife in nizkih davčnih stopenj za sodelujoča podjetja.


Čeprav zahodne države in regije še niso pokazale tako drznih ambicij, kot so bile predhodno omenjene, so se začeli pojavljati dobri primeri državnih pobud za ešportno industrijo. Morda najopaznejša je ešportni stadion Arlington (ESA) v Texasu, ZDA, ki se je uradno odprl javnosti v novembru 2018. Mesto je porabilo 10 milijonov dolarjev za izgradnjo stadiona in podpisalo 10-letni najem z NGAGE Esports, ki je odgovorno za rezervacije in upravljanje dogodkov ter pridobivanje sponzorjev, npr. z NVIDIA GeForce. ESA je od tedaj gostila že vrsto večjih dogodkov, vključno s tekmovanjem Counter-Strike: Global Offensive ECS Season 8 Finals, pozno v letu 2019.


Druge občine so se osredotočile na privabljanje ešportnih talentov s ponujanjem nepovratnih sredstev in vračilom davka. Misfits Gaming Group, ena izmed vodilnih ešportnih organizacij v Severni Ameriki, bo svojo prisotnost na trgu utrdila z odprtjem novega sedeža na Floridi, ZDA, v letu 2021, vrednim 1,3 milijona dolarjev. Organizacija je razkrila, da bodo lokalne in državne oblasti namenila preko 200.000 dolarjev v nepovratnih sredstvih in vračilu davka za podporo selitve in plana ustvariti več kot 30 delovnih mest s strani Misfits Gaming skupine.


Mnogi vladno podprti ešportni projekti so načrtovani oziroma v izvedbi tudi v Evropi. V Veliki Britaniji je tako v letu 2019 Weavr Consortium, voden s strani ESL UK, prejel dvoletno vladno dotacijo v višini štirih milijonov funtov. Konzorcij naj bi ustvaril 45 tehnološko usmerjenih zaposlitev z namenom razvoja nove platforme za transformacijo ešportne izkušnje za oddaljeno občinstvo. Na celini je po drugi strani danski sklad za rast vodil zadnjo investicijsko rundo v višini 10 milijonov evrov, začeto s strani RFRSH Entertainment, lastnikom ešportne ekipe Astralis in upravljalcem tekmovanja Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Blast Pro Series.


Če potrebujete pravno podporo glede vaših pravic intelektualne lastnine, vam bomo pravniki iz Lemur Legal z veseljem pomagali. Pošljite nam povpraševanje na info@lemur.legal. Lemur Legal upravlja tudi ešportno agencijo SPIKE, kjer ešportnikom nudimo celostno podporo: hello@spikesports.agency.



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