Traditional sports owners now have teams in Overwatch, League of Legends, and more; will they make a big push into the FGC?

It's looking like a real possibility

Posted by Nicoma 'Melchiorus' Christian, guest writer • January 30, 2018 at 11:26 a.m. PST

Traditional sports and eSports have always had an interesting relationship. There has been a lot of back and forth between various people talking about what being a "sport" means, and what being an "athlete" means.

In recent times, eSports has seen a lot more widespread acceptance from the mainstream, even if most involved in eSports don't mind one way or another.

That acceptance has been highlighted in the last year as investors from traditional sports have entered the eSports scene. One of the most well-known being Rick Fox, the owner of Echo Fox.

So what have teams backed by traditional sports done for eSports, and what could they do for the FGC? Moreover, are up-and-coming sports-backed teams interested in sponsoring players from the FGC?

The answer to these questions is easier to extrapolate when you take a look at what has happened within titles like Overwatch and League of Legends.

Recently there has been an influx of owners from traditional Sports who have started creating their own teams. In Overwatch, the Los Angeles Gladiators, Boston Uprising, New York Excelsior, and Philadelphia Fusion, are all owned by big names in sports. These are owners of franchises like Arsenal F.C., the New England Patriots, and others.

In League of Legends, there has been investment from similar sources for a while now. This includes Clutch Gaming, owned by the Houston Rockets, FlyQuest, owned by the Milwaukee Bucks co-owner, and Golden Guardians, which are owned by the Golden State Warriors.

These teams have brought a few things to their respective scenes, the most obvious being brand recognition.

Teams like the Houston Rockets are household names in the United States. Being able to flex that brand recognition allows them to do things that endemic teams may not be able to do.

One of those things is pulling sponsors from areas that haven't been reached by eSports. For example, the Houston Rockets already have an established relationship with Whataburger.

Does that mean if Clutch Gaming gets a player in the FGC that we'll have more Whataburger at events? I can't confirm that. But what I can say is that they're not the only one with established partnerships outside of what we already see in eSports.


Photo credit - Stephanie Lindgren

From an interview by Akshon Esports with Sebastien Park, Clutch Gaming's GM, it seems that for some of these teams it may be a while before they look to acquire pro players in fighting games.

He was asked about expansion into other eSports and he had this to say:

"My previous team, Team Archon, had a DOTA and Hearthstone team. I'm a huge fan of Starcraft. But at the same time we don't understand League of Legends just yet. It would be very wrong of us to think that we can understand all of these different eSports at the same time."

Later in the article he said to ask the question about expansion when they're comfortable with where they are.

There are other teams with owners from traditional sports that are more established. I recently asked Nick Phan, general manager of FlyQuest, about whether they were looking to expand into the FGC.

Here's what he said:

"I think the most I can say right now. Is that we’re definitely interested. But our timeline of entry isn’t chained by anything.

"We’re staying flexible, but definitely see areas in which we can do more research to see if we can impact the FGC scene and its communities in a mutually exclusive way. It’s going to be a lot about timing, community reception and feedback, and Nintendo’s green lighting.

"Again I’ve had many conversations with prominent individuals in the FGC scene. And still many more to be had. If we are to enter the FGC, it’s going to be with intention to build up not only the scene and its titles, but also the individuals who have dedicated their lives to the space. We want to know and make sure that if we enter, we’re providing more value than just a paycheck to any player or individual and that we always have our eyes set on building good things."

One thing that seems to connect the two teams is that they don't take entry into a new eSports space lightly. They want to be prepared, and they want to offer up as much value to players as they receive.

This mindset makes sense when representing teams backed by traditional sports owners with long histories of success, and considering the pitfalls of eSports organizations of the past.


Photo credit - Stephanie Lindgren

It seems like it's just a matter of time before the FGC has more traditional sports-backed teams coming into the arena. It's not completely clear what effect that will have, but if Echo Fox is any indication, good things may be coming.

As for the currently established teams in the FGC, they may have to step up their game to stay relevant, and to keep their players.

More teams like Echo Fox could also lead to a boost in player salaries, something that has already been seen in League of Legends this year. One of the simplest and most effective tactics for teams new to a scene is to just pay more than the other guy.

If multiple teams all come into the space at the same time, things could get rough for some smaller organizations with fewer resources.

When Echo Fox came into the scene and started pulling players from multiple different games last year, it caught everyone's interest. Not to mention spawning this hilarious video from K-Brad.

In the next year or two we could see something similar happen again.

So who would be on the team that challenges established teams like Echo Fox, Grapht, and Panda Global for the title of best FGC team? Is it possible that we could see a team from the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets step up to the plate?

Nothing is certain yet, but I know I'll be watching to see what happens next.

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