Riot Games and MTV Ups the Ante on Esports Tournaments

May 15, 2018

Esports tournaments keep increasing in grandeur.

In October 1972, the first video game competition was held in a classroom at Stanford University. It consisted of 24 students playing a game called “SPACEWAR” for a chance to win a year’s subscription to Rolling Stone magazine.

Last year, more than 173,000 fans witnessed matches across three of the top esports titles – Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), League of Legends (LoL), and StarCraft II – at the Intel Extreme Masters event in Katowice, Poland. That audience made it the biggest esports event in history. Teams from across the world faced off on the main stage of the Spodek Arena for a prize pool of $650,000.

Now Riot Games, creators of the hugely popular League of Legends, has partnered with MTV to create a hybrid music and esports festival. The two-day event will be known as the Hyperplay and will take place at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in August of this year.

“The opportunity to collaborate with Riot Games is timely as esports is growing at a rapid pace in Singapore and across Southeast Asia,” said Paras Sharma, senior vice president of Southeast Asia at Viacom International Media Networks. “There is a natural synergy between esports and music, and with MTV’s expertise in creating compelling music and pop culture experiences, we are amplifying the discovery of a new entertainment experience in the region. With Hyperplay, we are looking to connect with new audiences in the esports genre through a bespoke music platform featuring a diverse range of talents and the distribution of music and esports content to a much wider audience base.”

Photo Credit: Hyperplay

The Singapore Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) and the National Youth Council (NYC) of Singapore is presenting the festival. They are also working with Riot to livestream the event worldwide and, several parts of the festival will be televised in parts of Southeast Asia.

The competition of Hyperplay will focus on 10 national teams from Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries. These teams will face off in the first ASEAN League of Legends tournament.

Alongside the esports match, the MTV Spotlight event will feature music performances by international, regional, and local artists. In addition, the musical portion will be edited into a 60-minute special scheduled to premiere Aug. 21 on MTV in Southeast Asia.

This is actually not the first time that Riot has collaborated with musical artists. Partnering with a variety of metal musicians (including Tommy Lee, Danny Lohner of Nine Inch Nails [and several other bands], and Noora Louhimo, singer with the Finnish metal band Battle Beast), Riot’s in-house songwriters, composers, and producers formed an animated metal band. It’s like Gorillaz by way of Iron Maiden who then become cute critter-kicking, 3D-animated demons. If you’re into that genre of music, it’s actually pretty good. The second album, Grasp of the Undying, made it onto the Billboard Top 40 and reached number one on the iTunes metal chart.

In addition, for the 2014 “League of Legends” World Championship, Riot Games and the American rock band Imagine Dragons worked together to create the song “Warriors.” One year later, Riot remixed “I Bet My Life,” another of the band’s song.

Photo Credit: YouTube – I Bet My Life (Riot Games Remix)

“Riot has been engaging in musical collaborations with great artists for years. A lot of gamers are also music fans, but it is exciting to see that a lot of talented musicians are also gamers, with whom we can create tailored music experiences within our game universe. With Hyperplay, we hope to deliver a great event that gaming fans will enjoy, and that an even broader audience will see it as an opportunity to discover the richness of the gaming culture,” said Johnson Yeh, managing director of Riot Games for Greater China and Southeast Asia.

This event leverages the incredible expansion of the esports industry, which has posted impressive growth in just the past few years. In 2013, the worldwide value of the esports market was less than $100 million. In 2017, the value jumped to $733 million. The market research and consultancy firm Ovum recently released a report, titled E-Sports Revenue Forecast: 2017–22, that predicts the global esports market will reach a total value of $1.9 billion by 2022.

The study estimates that the industry will have a compound annual growth rate of 20.7 percent. One marker for this growth is the annual revenue derived from ticket sales, which are predicted to increase at a 21.1 percent compound annual growth rate. Another indicator is a rise in streaming advertisement revenue due to forecasted audiences of more than 10 million viewers for the most popular events (for reference, more than 46 million unique online viewers watched the 2017 Intel Extreme Masters Poland event).

The final indicator is an expectation that sponsorships will grow to $578 million. This expected increase seems to be corroborated by the recently released Nielsen Esports Playbook, which measured the habits and demographics of esports fans in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Nielsen found that the viewing audiences for esports are the strongest in the United States, where 66 percent of fans say they are likely to stream a live esports event and 42 percent are likely to watch live esports on television. However, French fans were the most likely to attend a live esports event, followed by German and U.S. fans, who tied. U.K. fans had the lowest in-person engagement.

Photo Credit: CNN International

Also interesting, U.S. fans possess the strongest favorable perception toward sponsors and brand involvement in esports. The report found that 58 percent of esports fans in the United States have a favorable view of brand involvement, while only five percent perceive it negatively. It doesn’t matter if the brands are inherently used throughout the course of the esports event or simply appear as sponsors, the brands receive favorable opinions from fans due to their involvement.

The Hyperplay event is also in line with overall trends where people, especially millennials, are focusing more on experiences. This audience will save money to spend it on a desirable experience or event as opposed to buying a consumer good. In fact, since 1987 consumer spending on live experiences and events has increased 70 percent compared to total U.S. consumer spending.

However, these audiences want new experiences as opposed to the same old thing. Which is exactly what Hyperplay is attempting to give them. It’s also an event tailor made for this audience. Without specific statistics to back this up, it’s safe to assume that a Venn diagram of esports fans and music festival attendees would have significant overlap.

Should Hyperplay prove to be successful, it is likely that similar events will hit the world’s stage. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about our thoughts specifically on Hyperplay or hosting or sponsoring an esports tournament in general, give one of our eGency experts a call at 972-323-6354.