The esports world is bigger than ever, with viewership predicted to reach a staggering 84 million by 2021 globally. More and more companies have started to see the value of investing in esports. Team SoloMid, an esports company raised nearly $40 million in Series A funding from influential figures like NBA superstar Stephen Curry, and Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang. Prominent payment provider PayPal has partnered with Rainbow Six Siege as a key sponsor for its rapidly growing esports scene. The list goes on: Disney, Mastercard, Nike, all these brands have seen the value of esports.
But what games should one invest in? The sheer multitude of games and platforms that exist can make it difficult and confusing for interested marketers to decide on what is the best option. There are two games that can be considered brand-safe and a low-risk high-reward option for anybody who’s thinking about investing into esports and the gaming industry.
It is astonishing that a game that operates on the premise of rocket powered cars playing soccer (or football). Regardless, Rocket League was, and still is an incredible success, with over 40 million players at the beginning of 2018. While the premise is relatively simple, as one is simply playing soccer with rocket-cars, the skill-curve of Rocket League is nearly unrivaled in how the best players are able to dribble, on the ground and in the air. Watching the difference between someone picking up the game for the first time compared to a Professional is like watching a toddler play football against an NFL superstar.
There are many reasons behind why Rocket League is a good bet for esports. For one thing, Fortnite creator Epic Games recently announced its acquisition of Rocket League. Psyonix has stated that this deal allows them much more freedom and resources to support the development of Rocket League, as well as its growing esports league, the Rocket League Championship Series. Furthermore, Rocket League is a family friendly game, with no risk of being pulled due to violence, which is prevalent in many esports games now. The relative infancy of the RLCS (it’s only been active since 2016), as well as its recent acquisition by Epic Games means that Rocket League is on its way to the top, and there’s never been a better time to join them.
Super Smash Bros Ultimate
The Super Smash Bros series has sold very well, recently becoming the highest grossing fighting game ever. Its esports scene continues to develop, and with the massive influx of new players due to the Nintendo Switch, the time is nigh to jump into fighting games. While many people might casually view Super Smash Bros as a casual game, one played at parties and at house gatherings, the sheer variety of characters (over 71) and mechanics that have been included make for an incredible amount of skill expression possible. From learning how to block and combo for the first time, to high-level mechanics like “Cross-ups”, “Frame-Traps”, and “Edgeguarding”, the possibilities for players to enter and learn are endless.
Furthermore, the longevity of Smash Bros gives it a level of safety that not many other esports titles can provide. How many other video game series can say that their first game came out before the new millennium? With Smash Bros Ultimate being a relatively new title, the game is just starting to get picked up at fighting game tournaments across the world, including Combo Breaker, and EVO. There’s no better time to hop in and support the newest Smash title as it starts to take the world by storm.
The stigma behind mobile games has long been eroded. Games are games, regardless of if you play them on a fully decked out computer, or on your phone on the way to work. The fact that games like PUBG or Fortnite now exist on our mobile devices is a testament to the prevalence of mobile gaming. It was only a matter of time before esports made its way to the smartphone. Supercell, developers behind Clash of Clans, have led the charge of mobile esports with their game, Clash Royale. A combination of cards, tower defense, and MOBAS (think League of Legends or Dota 2), Clash Royale pits players in either 1v1s, or 2v2s as they use troops, buildings, and spells to take down their opponent. It feels natural to question why a mobile game can have an esports scene; but the skill expression of Clash Royale players is incredible. There are guides across the internet, ranging from beginner guides that explain the game from start to finish, to guides that go in-depth down to the specific card that you’re going to use, how it works, and how it may not work.
The ability for mobile games to reach out to such a large audience cannot be quantified in how valuable it is. You don’t need to hook up to any television screen or use a large console. All you need is your phone. It’s clear that Supercell is intent on supporting Clash Royale. Their recent tournament had prize money of a million dollars, and continued support has been announced. When it comes to mobile esports, look no further than Clash Royale.
Magic: The Gathering
It is impossible to talk about card games without including Magic: The Gathering; It’s been a collectible-card game for 25 years and in that time accrued nearly 25 million players..You’d only need to ask anybody who plays Magic: The Gathering to understand the insane amount of depth that this card game has. Wikipedia has an entire article on keywords used in Magic, ranging from simple words like “Counter”, or “Fight”, to complex terms like “Surveil”, “Typecycling”, “Grandeur”, or “Domain”. When it comes to complex card games, Magic: The Gathering takes the cake and has a couple bites from it as well.
The card game has only recently made its way to an online platform. Magic: The Gathering Arena launched its open beta on September 27, 2018 with a full launch coming this year, 2019. The gameplay is exactly the same as the card game, but rather than holding physical cards, you’d be looking at a screen. Developer Wizards of the Coast have already announced their plans for an esports tournament, collaborating with Hasbro to make the Magic Pro League and with it, a prize pool of $10 Million. The Pro League provides stability for its top players as well, giving each participant a $75K contract for ‘playing and streaming’. All this proves that Wizards of the Coast are eager, and willing to put their hand in esports. Magic is no stranger to competition and they enter the esports scene as a proven game with an already solid fanbase. That fanbase can only grow as they go online.
An extremely recent addition to the video game space, Teamfight Tactics and the auto battler genre have come onto the scene only in 2019. Started by Dota Auto Chess, Teamfight Tactics is Riot Games’ (of League of Legends fame) answer in the auto battler genre. The genre has gained an extreme amount of popularity, partly due to its attachment to other juggernaut games, but also because they’re turn-based and much more methodical than their fast-paced and fluid MOBA counterparts.
Players within an auto battle game take the role of a general, placing set units on a board and pitting them against other players. The catch is that after their units are placed, the fighting is left to the computer, hence the “auto” in auto battler. The losing general takes a hit to his health points, and once their general reaches zero health points, he is knocked out. The last man standing wins.
There is much more intricacy within Teamfight Tactics that can be explained by a layman’s explanation. From items that can be purchased to give your units a boost, to unit cohesion bonuses that occur only when certain champions are on the battlefield together; There’s a lot going on between the lines that is still being discovered by players daily. Furthermore, the recent inclusion of ranked to TFT has given players a way to express their skills and strategic planning. Riot Games would be remiss not to try and bring Teamfight Tactics into the esports world.
Teamfight Tactics was the most viewed game on Twitch within hours of launching, and maintains an incredible player count that has nearly crashed Riot’s servers a few times. A strategy game with intricate layers based off one of the most popular games of all time gives this game longevity potential.
These are just a few possible options. There are plenty more games out there that have the potential to rocket into the forefront of gamers mindsets. But, other than the already prominent League of Legends, Overwatch, and Hearthstone, the few titles mentioned above have the quality and possibility to become massive esports franchises.
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