Finally, we officially have the ESPN of eSports, and it’s none other than ESPN themselves.
This move was foreshadowed back on April 26, 2015, when ESPN aired the first ever eSports tournament on it’s network ESPN 2, Heroes of the Dorm. Twitter went ablaze, throwing everything every nerd has ever heard at ESPN and the players. Normal ESPN viewers were far from happy. ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd even went on a rant, famously stating that “If I am ever forced to cover guys playing video games, I will retire.” Later in the year he left ESPN Radio for Fox.
Cowherd is not alone in his feelings, but it really doesn’t matter. With games as small as Hi-Rez Sudio’s Smite having a World Championship with a prize pool of $1 Million and DOTA 2’s prize pool reaching $18.4 Million for The International in 2015, it’s no wonder ESPN has gone all in. eSports are here, eSports are growing, and eSports are here to stay. ESPN picking them up, having a fully dedicated Twitter account and page on EPSN.com, there’s no denying change. Funny, because Cowherd always preaches that people need to evolve, yet he can’t let go of being the curmudgeon he’s turning into.
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With ESPN picking up eSports in such a strong fashion, I’m interested to see what happens. Do the prize pools get higher? Does the competition field grow? Do sponsorships go to the players, leagues, network, or all three? Will we see Rebook, Nike and Under Armour get in on the frenzy of trying to sigh the lucrative contracts with teams and leagues to be the official sponsor and jersey? There’s a lot at stake here, and for a world that has been riddled by scandal and players getting screwed out of winnings, I worry a bit as to whether or not they’re ready.
If I had the time to scout and find teams, and the disposable income to support them, now would certainly be the time to build out a franchise of eSports teams, ranging from Call of Duty to DOTA 2, and everything in between. Those with the strongest business acumen behind them will do well with this new addition to coverage by ESPN, and those who don’t will likely go the way of fireworks on the 4th of July, reaching the top only to explode and fade away into nothingness.
eSports are here, and ESPN is betting they’re here to stay.
What do you think of ESPN bringing more coverage to eSports? Tell us in the comments below!