Each month, STACK takes a brief look at what’s happening in esports, both locally and overseas.
There’s no off-season in esports, but the “transfer market” has been very active over the break – and none moreso than the movers, shakers, and combo breakers at team Echo Fox. The esports organisation’s massive swoop on the fighting game community poached Street Fighter stars Justin Wong, ChocoBlanka, Tokido, as well as Mortal Kombat players SonicFox and Scar. Echo Fox is rumoured to have silly amounts of money -- enough for top tier players like Justin Wong to finally consider playing Street Fighter full time. These legends are being consolidated at a tumultuous time for the sport, as a mere three frames of invincibility being taken away from the Shoryuken in Street Fighter V is causing quite the controversy.
2016 was the year mainstream sporting brands staked their claims in esports, and the trend has now kicked into high gear. FIFA players are being signed to top tier football clubs such as Manchester City, Valencia, Schalke, and more. Interestingly, these deals don’t require the player to actually play with the club they’re representing.
NBA teams seem particularly interested, with the 76ers, Miami Heat, and Boston Celtics' player Jonas Jerebko picking up esports teams -- the latter’s acquisition being Renegades, also known as the Aussie team who had to move to California just to find decent competition. The aforementioned Echo Fox’s “silly money” comes from another NBA player, Rick Fox, and even Shaq is getting in on the act after buying NRG eSports.
It makes business sense to make these moves in the esports space now. The industry moved $900 million in 2016, and is projected to grow for many years to come. But with shorter-term contracts and higher player turnover than traditional sports, these multiplayer moguls might take care not to invest in a brand only to have five flaky millennials leave and start another.