Publishers too are struggling to recoup their investment in esports. Riot Games head of esports Chris Greeley told WIRED that Riot is “approaching breakeven” on its esports endeavors. And in an earnings document revealed during its trial against Apple last week, Epic Games said it overestimated its opportunities in esports by $154 million in 2019—the year it ran its $30 million cash-prize Fortnite World Cup.
Greeley says that esports is not some stretched-out bubble ready to burst. However, he says, “I think you’re going to see a bunch of folks who are pivoting or shifting direction or shifting strategy to continue to move forward, the way any startup industry tends to do.”
Esports organizations typically associated with tournaments are now signing more deals with content creators. (Several top teams declined to comment on this over email.) Instead of competing as part of an Apex Legends or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive roster, these gaming influencers stream on Twitch or YouTube, sometimes just chatting with fans and sometimes playing games at a high level. As part of their partnership agreements, teams help manage these gamers’ businesses, facilitate sponsorship deals, and even provide salaries.
Fielding a roster of YouTube or Twitch celebrities can help teams attract more sponsorship deals, which still make up a significant part of their bottom line. Influencers tend to have larger and more engaged audiences than individual athletes, entire teams, and even whole tournaments. A Call of Duty League tournament