Kevin and Doa of IPL
Who Will Buy IPL? The fine folks at RTSGuru recently reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in sharing some of my random thoughts and feelings on any number of different topics here every couple of weeks. I took them up on their offer, though it’s taken a little longer than I originally expected to do so. The start of LCS has me running around like crazy. I’m now at the NA studio two-three times a week, still trying to produce shows and content the other three days, and talking eSports business with several different orgs that are interested in ramping up LoL coverage and content this year.
Three days ago I made a video entitled “The Biggest eSports News No One Is Talking About: IPL’s Future Uncertain”. Earlier that day, Polygon reported that Ziff Davis, the company who would be buying IGN, had no interest in IPL and instead was looking for a buyer. That’s a nice way of saying, “either someone is going to buy this or we’re going to kill it”. This is crazy news, especially with IPL 6 a month away. No information has come out yet as to the future of that event, let alone the company.
In that video I asked for ideas about who you thought were viable options for buyers. I’ve collected some of the reasonable ones here (in some cases still very farfetched though) and will break down my thoughts on them.
Riot Games: Why they’d be interested: Since the start of season 2, IPL has been producing quality League of Legends tournaments and content. Many claim IPL 5 to be the best League of Legends tournament to date. In NA, they’re generally held to be the better org by both fans and players over MLG. Losing them would be a sad moment for NA fans.
Why they will probably pass: They already have a full eSports team, production crew, and the knowledge needed to create awesome League of Legends tournaments and content. They’re also already spending a TON of money on eSports for season 3 and it would be surprising if they were anywhere near breaking even. They wouldn’t produce any tournaments for other game companies, so 50%+ of IPL’s business would be useless to them.
Verdict: No way unless Riot seriously doesn’t care about blowing money.
MLG: Why they’d be interested: By purchasing IPL, they’d be gaining their only real rival (outside of NASL’s different style of SC2) in NA. They’d have an office and crew on the west coast to match their NY offices. They could produce twice the content and twice as many tournaments. They’d also inherit any partnerships/deals with publishers they don’t currently have (such as Shootmania).
Why they will probably pass: Similar to Riot, they already have a full time eSports team, so they’d be buying a lot of redundancies. Speaking of “buying”, one of the big conversations in 2012 was how MLG seemed to be on the verge of going under. They’d have to raise a lot of capital to purchase IPL, and that’s money they don’t have. Beyond all that, David Ting and Sundance were pretty big rivals.
Verdict: No way.
ESL/Dreamhack: Why they’d be interested: Either European organization would gain an NA foothold. They’d be able to coordinate their league across countries and they’d also pick up any deals with publishers that IPL has. NESL is… lackluster in a lot of ways so replacing it with a solid team would be a huge upgrade.
Why they will probably pass: Again, money. ESL only recently paid out their past tournament earnings. From what 2GD mentioned a while back, Dreamhack operates with a very small team. They work around seasonal tournaments and that’s about it. When I said all that on Twitter, Carmac asked “why would they want to buy” IPL?
Verdict: Ain’t happenin’.
Any number of mainstream companies: Why they’d be interested: League of Legends, more than any game to date, has shown that eSports is becoming “the next big thing” – or at least that’s what will be said in boardrooms at these huge companies. IPL would be a tiny expense line for any of these guys and they’d be able to supply it with a ton of resources while also using their ad networks and sales team to secure sponsors and be one of the first companies to actually MAKE money from eSports content and events.
Why they’ll pass: eSports isn’t mainstream yet and they’re mainstream companies. They have enough money that they can bide their time and pay for MLG or any other upstart once it becomes big enough. Or just create their own team in house. For some of these companies, IPL operates very different from their whole business. It’s hard to pitch to shareholders.
Verdict: It’s too soon for these companies to be buy anyone.
Virgin Gaming: Why they’d be interested: They have the eSports interests of the leagues with the financial backing of a mainstream company. They recently hosted an event in Vegas called the Challenge Series. It was produced by Gamespot. They already have Madden, Fifa, and NHL publishers and games on board, they’d be able to pick up the other side of “competitive gaming” with SC2, LoL, and more.
Why they could pass: Their business model seems to be based around the average consumer playing matches online to “win cash”. They only focus on consoles. They don’t seem interested in “eSports” at all. They’re targeting the average gamer, not the hardcore eSports fans.
Verdict: Possible, though likely not smart enough to see that an opportunity like this is huge.
Big Publishers: Why they’d be interested: Riot Games and Blizzard Entertainment are leading the way in competitive gaming. Players who are interested in the competitive scene keep playing the game for a lot longer and are interested in expansions, DLC, or microtransactions. Publishers are always salivating over the next evolution in gaming, trying to rush in before anyone else can get there first. Right now it’s mobile. With Ubisoft throwing $100k at Shootmania tournaments, it’s clear that some of them are thinking the next step is “competitive”. With how these companies like to categorize gamers into either “hardcore” or “casuals”, I wouldn’t be surprised if they think that mobile is where the average gamer will play- a group that’ll have low margins but high numbers, and that eSports are where the hardcore gamer will go with a much longer period of investment but lower ccu. They’re ignorant enough to think that by picking up an eSports organizer they’ll surpass Riot Games overnight and they have the pockets to afford one.
Why they -could- pass: They might just try and throw money at MLG or Virgin instead. Their ignorance could lead them to try and develop an “internal” eSports team that doesn’t know anything about competitive gaming.
Verdict: Probable, out of all the options available these guys seem to be the best fit.
So we’re left with Virgin and Publishers most likely. I’d guess Virgin at 10% chance, a publisher at 40%, and the unfortunate demise of the company at 50%. Either way, it’s not looking good for League of Legends fans that want to see more IPLLoL content.
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