Esports is getting bigger. The industry is attracting a bigger audience, more investors, and larger amounts of moolah. According to research firm SuperData, esports is set to hit $1 billion in revenue in 2017. The mainstream market wants in on the esports hype train, and the latest move involves one of esports’ household names; Fnatic.
On Monday, April 10, Fnatic announced that they have received over $7 million in financing from big names. One of the investors is Raptor Group, owned by American businessman and entrepreneur Jim Pallotta. Raptor Group is no stranger to esports, as they have invested in Caffeine.tv, a streaming service that aims to compete with Twitch and Youtube Gaming. Pallotta is also the current president of A.S. Roma, and along with three other investors, acquired the Italian football club in 2011. Raptor Group also owns NBA team Boston Celtics. AS Roma launched its own esports team back in February, in partnership with Fnatic.
Other investors include Joi Ito, Director of MIT Media Lab. Ito is also a board member of Sony Corporation, and is an early stage investor in Kickstarter, Twitter, Flickr, Last.fm, Kongregate, and other online start up companies. Hannes Wallin, Founder and CEO of Fractal Design, a Swedish computer hardware manufacturer specializing in cases, cooling fans, and power supplies. Hersh Interactive Group is also one of the investors.
“There has been strong growth in esports, which has accelerated in recent years, but the major shift has been in the acceptance and inclusion by sports franchises, media companies and high profile individuals who have entered and advanced the industry rapidly. We’re incredibly excited by the opportunities available within esports, and having world class investors and advisors only enhances our ability to address these opportunities and continue to innovate.”
―Sam Matthews, Founder of Fnatic
This isn’t the first time the NBA has dabbled into esports. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is one of the most vocal NBA personalities when it comes to esports. In 2015 he invested in Unikrn, an esports betting company. He participated in a League of Legends showmatch against Intel CEO Brian Krzanich for charity. Memphis Grizzlies co-owner Stephen Kaplan invested in League of Legends team Immortals.
NRG Esports is owned by Sacramento Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov. NBA Legend Shaquille O’ Neal, former New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez, and Chicago White Sox Jimmy Rollins also invested in NRG Esports, which has teams in League of Legends and CS:GO.
Former Laker Rick Fox owns Echo Fox, Boston Celtic Jonas Jerebko owns Renegades, The Philadelphia 76ers own Team Dignitas. Brooklyn Nets’ Jeremy Lin and Utah Jazz’s Gordon Hayward are huge fans of esports, with Lin even starting up his own Dota 2 team, and Hayward getting esports endorsements.
The NBA is even looking to launch its own gaming league in 2018.
According to a report from Fnatic, esports viewership has already surpassed Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association with over 3 billion hours watched by U.S. residents alone. Additionally, the largest prize purses in esports are greater than the largest purses on the PGA Tour.
Esports is getting bigger and bigger. Investors foresaw esports as being the next big thing in marketing, and today we’re seeing those forecasts materialize. Analysts forecast that the industry is expected to garner over 500 million viewers worldwide with annual revenues exceeding $5 billion by 2020. Fellow gamers should all be excited at things to come.
Feature image credits: Fnatic