The ESPN Strikes Back

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So *finally* ESPN is in the eSports game. Yesterday they launched an obligatory eSports section to espn.com and it’s tucked away with cycling and tennis as a 2nd or 3rd tier activity. But it’s there.

Clearly this is a grudging — hey wait up for me — effort, and I can’t imagine it being very relevant. The big splash lead article is all about how big eSports has become, which underscores the “business case” angle to ESPN’s involvement here. But  what choice do they have? They can’t ignore it.

As a massive media temple to the “Big Four” American sports (or.. six? Do I see college football and soccer ahead of NHL now on the menu? hmm..) I’m sure ESPN is calibrated to nurture that core audience but the overlap w/ gamerz is.. uh.. not nearly as much as you’d think. eSports is driven by MUD and MOBA citizens (the audience!) who are globally distributed and livestreamed into the metaverse. American football on tv? Whaazat?

So we watch the empire collapse in slow motion, the laws of disruptive business cycle mechanics and shareholder accountability mean ESPN will continue to be owned by their core “concussion-sport” audience and slowly manage their position perfectly — but inevitably — into the ground.

So we salute the empire. And we watch..

Turn That Bad Boy Around

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Remember last week I posted about Stolen, a new social game that let you “buy” and “sell” people on Twitter? Hmmm.. Well, the game has already been shut down!

Why? Well.. the game uses Twitter accounts of real people as game “objects” and even if the person (let’s say your Aunt Mathilda) wasn’t playing the game, she could be purchased in the game for a “price” and you could “buy” her and “own” her. Or “sell” her to someone who wanted her in their “collection”. All this buying and selling (plus other social things, like “liking” or “poking” people) of appropriated profiles would generate more game currency so you could buy more people, ad nauseum. Obviously you want to collect desirable accounts to be cool (why else are you on Twitter? or playing games?) and the more you play the more highly desirable people you could afford. I think it’s genius.

However, some of the Adults on the Intertubes thought that unauthorized inclusion of people’s Twitter profiles (Aunt Mathilda still doesn’t know she was for sale..) was too disruptive, and that twitter profiles were not things to be played with.

I guess if a Twitter account can get you fired it’s a real “thing” — a real extension of your so-called real identity.

Still seems weird to me though.

Imaqtpie

imaqtpie2If you want your kids to grow up to be an eSports celebrity, here’s an idea of what that looks like — Imaqtpie.

I spent some quality time watching this guy work. Basically he spends his days playing League of Legends on a live stream, and making commentary.

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This is a job. See him on the bottom right corner? Yeah, he makes $8,000 a month from doing this.

Some details on how he generates his money here. The bottom line is that there are enough people who play this game (LOL) that understand what he’s doing, and find his commentary cool and informative.

The appeal is something like that of radio, ambient commentary and a form of community building.

For example, when you subscribe to his channel (costs you $5/ mo) one of the main benefits is that he gives you a shout out — he says your name and thanks you for joining. You are now a member, acknowledged and loved.

He’s clearly more than a “cutey pie” — he’s a shrewd marketer and has leveraged a passion with a clear knowledge of his audience. When you “sub” to his channel you become a member of the Big D*** Club — a name clearly top-of-mind and funny to a small but clearly passionate demographic.

Gotta love the focus.

More Human Than Human

tyrell_corpIn what is likely an alternate version of 2019, an artifical human named Roy Batty will be hunted and then turn the tables on his hunter, the Blade Runner Rick Deckard.

Today is Roy’s inceptday, the actual day he was “created” by the Tyrell Corp.

In his three years of life this Nexus 6 burned so very brightly. Of course he wanted more life (f***er!) but you could argue that he gave a master class on being human to Tyrell, JF, Pris, Deckard.. pretty much everyone including the teen-age version of me.

Happy birthday you big bad beautiful replicant dude!

The ESPN Of Video Games

activision-mlgThe biggish news in eSports this week was the acquisition of Major League Gaming — the eSports league — by one of the largest game publishers, Activision Blizzard.

This acquisition signals the intent of Activision, in the words of their CEO, to become “the ESPN of video games.” I guess that means he wants to make Activision into the most valuable publishing property in the world for eSports.

There’s a lot of hand-wringing in the gaming press about about the skeeviness of Activision and the whorishness of MLG, and predictions about a giant sell-out entity not being able to attract *real* gamers and a healthy community.

Maybe that’s true but I think the inherent conflicts of interest (game publishing + journalism + gaming leagues!) and lack of vision (back to tv?) by Activision are enough to keep this merger from really taking off. It’s too mis-aligned IMVHO.

I don’t think ESPN will step in and take over eSport publishing either — their demo is just too different and I don’t think they “get” this stuff.

My prediction: This happy mess of an industry — eSports — will get to the point where a real League will form out of a group of relatively equal communities. Like what happened with credit cards or the NBA, etc.

It isn’t about the money or the chest beating — the publisher-led gaming communities are the center of gravity here.