Video games are still seen as that grubby hobby shared by a collection of overweight neck-bearded male neanderthals living in their mom's basement after their dad took off on a Tuesday at some nondescript time in their life when they were but a tiny neck-beard. Well, American Express seems to disagree with that aforementioned summary because they see a ton of money in the eSports arena from males and females alike, which is why they're now officially sponsoring League of Legends.
[A]listDaily, a site I've never heard of before today (and isn't that the beauty of articles that go viral?) managed to do a pretty detailed report on the whole scenario, in which American Express has taken steps to bridge the gap between gaming culture and mainstream commercialism.
The blue chip company that rocks the socks on Wall Street and keeps Americans broke with high interest rates wants more business from the folks who put inordinate amounts of time into the hobby of interactive entertainment. AmEx has also rolled out a new League of Legends themed debit card, so gamers who already don't have money can attempt to spend money they don't have and pay it off until they're good and buried so that they can pass the debt on to an illegitimate kid or two... 'cause, America, right?
Anyway, Ian Swanson, vice president of Enterprise Growth at American Express commented about the engagement with one of the biggest entertainment industries in the world, saying...
“From an engagement perspective, Riot Games is a great partner because League of Legends isn’t just about these huge live events, it’s also about the time spent playing the game and watching others playing the game for research and strategies,” ... “We want to reach the male millennial audience on a consistent basis. These millions of gamers aren’t just watching things live on Twitch, but many times afterward to learn from the pros. And they’re also actively talking about it.”
A credit or debit card is a great way to create incentives for gamers to be interested in a company, and sponsoring at events that garner 10,000 live audience members and millions more via live-streams and post-match views via YouTube, Vimeo or DailyMotion is genius. This is why the rich and wealthy in America and the Russian mafia and the Dutch power players and the British aristocrats are still at the top... coming up with great concepts like this. Boy, if I had a dollar for every time a big company came up with a way to milk a poor sap I would be as rich as the people who screw those poor saps over.
Anyway, American Express wants to make the most of their sponsorship, as they're not just hitting up Americans but tons of international players coming from across the seas as well, thanks to the new visa card addendum for eSports players. Swanson went on to say that...
“American Express is also a US Open sponsor, what this means for eSports is that we’re stepping up and saying this is no longer niche,” .... “This is a large audience that’s strategic to our goals as a company to reach. Just as you see American Express at the US Open or LA Kings hockey games at the Staples Center, you’ll see us at LCS.”
Sold out in an hour? The board members didn't hear anything but “dollar, dollar bills, son!” You could have told them that Anonymous was using their extra-marital funds from their Cayman island accounts to buy PS4s off eBay and the only thing they would have heard was “dollar, dollar bills, son!”
Dustin Beck, the vice president of eSports at Riot, also chimed in on the good news, noting that...
“All we can do is guarantee fans we have a focus on delivering high-quality, engaging experiences and that’s our first and foremost attribute,” ... “We’re going to start doing more global experiences with fans. We have five distinct leagues in China, Korea, Southeast Asia, Europe, North America and we just launched in countries like Brazil, Russia and Turkey. It’s a unique situation where we have a global sport that is tough to benchmark outside of any sport except maybe FIFA or the Olympics.”
More than 70 million registered players, more than 30 million active players at any one time and enough fanboy appeal to become its own sovereign nation, League of Legends is a digital force to be reckoned with and a money-pit of success for Riot, with gamers dumping countless dimes and dollars into the coffers of the publishers and developers to make the MOBA boom a legitimate horse-chasing-carrot idiom for many other big publishers out there looking to cash in on a quick buck.
It's obvious eSports is becoming big business, but in just a year we're seeing it catapult to whole new heights. This means great things for game culture and so long as League of Legends doesn't lose steam like Call of Duty it could be the one game that does more than just make the publisher a billion dollars a quarter... it could put eSports in mainstream as a serious sports pastime.