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Looking at the future of eSports as game changers influence the world stage


eSports isn't just having a moment; it's reaching for the stars.

Over the past few years, we've seen eSports evolve into something we've all dreamed about for years. Looking back at what was achieved in 2015 we see tournaments with millions in prize pools, and viewership numbers so high it's reaching the level of professional sports. eSports made a name for itself in 2015, so much so, that some of the biggest names in gaming, EA, and Activision/Blizzard established dedicated eSports divisions. Next came the increase in sponsors, both to individual players and teams - we're talking contracts of up to $100 million. In 2015, we also saw the acquisition of eSports organizations by investors. The amount of money flowing into eSports is astounding, mind-blowing, and reality.

eSports going mainstream

At the end of 2015 eSports was going mainstream with celebrity involvement and world sports broadcasting organizations getting ready to talk eSports, SA's SuperSport joining the lineup. Kicking off 2016 we all "felt" it- eSports was on the cusp of greatness - a name in world sports, with Olympic inclusion not just a far-fetched dream, but an achievable goal.

However, no matter the prize pools, investors or broadcasting, eSports would remain locked in the arena of gaming and entertainment because of one thing. Standardization by a body recognized by players and world eSports organizations. The International eSports Federation is one such organization, and they have made undeniable progress towards standardization and Olympic inclusion for eSports. So much so, that they're undergoing their first evaluation in December. However, the success of the IeSF has been dampened by two things; nation participation and support of the world's top teams. 

America has only Argentina and Brazil as representatives compared to Europe's 19 nations. Currently, there are 45 nations under the IeSF banner. To put that number in perspective; 163 (of the 206) nations/NOC have already been accepted for participation in the 2016 Olympics (takes place in August).

America boasts some of the world's top eSports teams - and they're not part of the IeSF - but they will be an integral component of the newly formed World Esports Association. WESA aims to achieve that holy grail of standardized regulation in eSports - and they already have the respect of professional gamers because of the organizations who founded WESA:

  • Electronic Sports League (ESL)
  • Eight of the world's top eSports teams
  1. Fnatic
  2. Natus Vincere
  3. EnVyUs
  4. Virtus.Pro
  5. G2 Esports
  6. Faze
  7. mousesports
  8. Ninjas in Pyjamas

Below you'll find a few words from the teams and founder, ESL, but let's take a quick look at some of WESA's pros and cons.

WESA pros & cons

"WESA is an open and inclusive organization that will further professionalize esports by: 

  • Player representation
  • Standardized regulations
  • Revenue sharing for teams
  • Bring all stakeholders to the discussion table
  • Create predictable schedules for fans, players, organizers and broadcasters
  • First institution to feature an operative Player Council

"The player-elected Council will advocate on behalf of the pro gamers in relation to league policies, rulesets, player transfers and more, empowering players when it comes to decision-making in regards to tournaments operated under WESA regulations. By bringing players to the discussion table, the Council will give them important insight into the balances of league decision making as well as the formation and adjustment of rules which directly affect player careers."

  • Limitation in partners: Currently only open to more teams from Europe and North America
  • Limitation in tournaments/games: The ESL Pro League for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive will be the first professional esports competition that will be played under WESA regulations.

Both limitations will, of course, change as WESA pulls off successful membership participation and tournaments. However, I don't see WESA opening its doors to an all-nation participation policy. If they don't, then eSports will probably not be included in the Olympics under their banner - but, unlike the IeSF, it is probably not part of their vision. I wonder if WESA will look towards the eGames - the eSports version of the Olympics that kicks off this year just after the Olympics.

Perhaps WESA will remain focused on eSports teams and not national eSports, only time will tell. I am excited about the structure they are bringing to professional gaming. Hopefully, they'll at least at some point endorse the IeSF or the eGames. One thing is sure, though; global eSports have become bigger, sooner than expected and it's nearing a stage of professionalism that equals that of traditional sport.

To get back to the article title - Yes, a game changer has certainly entered the eSports arena - for the elite.

What the top eSports teams have to say

“We’ve established Fnatic across numerous games over the past twelve years, and we welcome an organization like WESA to help speak to the interests of teams and players,” said Wouter Sleijffers, CEO of Team Fnatic.

Mike Rufail, Managing Director of Team EnVyUs continued: “Our team has worked hard with organizers, like ESL, in the past to provide feedback and ensure a positive evolution for the events specifically and the industry. Team EnVyUs players welcome both the challenge and responsibility that WESA brings with it.”

"WESA offers many opportunities to the Member Teams and their Players, but we're most excited about the esports's first official player representative finally becoming a reality" said Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas, Player for Team Virtus.Pro. "For the first time in the history of esports, players will come together to organize themselves, and that will enable all of us to get a real say in decisions that directly influence us. With a Player Council sitting at the table with the rest of the decision makers, we're going to continue improve the tournament and league organization".

“It’s an incredibly exciting time to be a part of the esports industry, and its rapid growth in just a few years has made it very clear: there’s growing and more pressing need to structurize it, both on the tournament organizer’s side as well as on the players’ side” said Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund of team Ninjas in Pyjamas. “WESA will offer us a platform to do just that - organize our work and careers, build a network of safety, and offer a solution to business and legal disputes.”

On the topic of responsibility, Natus Vincere Team Owner Alexander Kokhanovskyy, said: “We welcome the inclusion that WESA offers in the decision-making process for competitions like the ESL CS:GO Pro League. The partnership, if I can call it that, goes one step further as well: Natus Vincere, along with all WESA teams, share in the profits when it comes to the WESA and their sanctioned events.

That’s a huge step for the industry.” Owner and CEO of FaZe Clan, Thomas Oliveira, echoed the sentiment: “The incentive was certainly there to get involved in WESA. Not just financially, but intrinsically: this is a sign of the industry recognizing the value and role that teams play. We look forward to working with WESA to make a difference in the scene.”    

A few words from WESA

“The formation of WESA is a critical milestone on our way to grow esports globally, and we’re incredibly excited to work with some of the world’s best professional teams” said Ralf Reichert, Managing Director at ESL. “Their continuous support to the formation and structuring of the Association only further cemented our belief that esports is well on its way to become the leading source of entertainment of gaming fans around the world.”

“I’m incredibly honored and excited to join the World Esports Association today, and am looking forward to bringing my years of experience from traditional sports into the world of electronic sports” said Pietro Fringuelli, Interim WESA League Commissioner. “The formation of WESA, and the growth of the Association in the coming years, will be the critical performance indicators for the entire esports industry - and a real game changer for its every stakeholder.”  

Better than ever to be in eSports. What say SA's gamers?

Han: Twitter / MWEB GameZone: Twitter | Facebook

"a stage of professionalism that equals that of traditional sport"

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