Esports is quickly becoming one of the world’s fastest growing entertainment industries, with a predicted worth of $1 billion by 2019, according to CNN.
With esports tournaments regularly pulling in audience numbers that rival the Super Bowl, you can see why companies, investors, and now celebrities are wanting in on the action.
Indeed, ESPN, Budweiser, TBS, Facebook, Dolby, YouTube, #Twitch and many, many more companies are now investing in and broadcasting live esports events across their networks. Acquisitions vary, but to give you an idea of the money involved, Swedish digital entertainment company Modern Times Group recently purchased the majority stake in Turtle Entertainment — the company behind Electronic Sports League — for $87 million.
Celebrity Esports Investors
It seems that real-world sports stars were the first to spot the potential of the #esports market. Spurred on by their entrepreneurial spirit, industry knowledge, and perhaps their love of video games, these celebrities are all involved in esports team ownership in one way or another.
Basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal co-owns esports organization NRG, which boasts teams that compete in several different genres, including in big-name games League of Legends and Counter-Strike:Global Offensive.
NRG recently acquired Overwatch pro squad Team Mixup. Shaq apparently loves Overwatch so much that he made the acquisition of a quality team a top priority for NRG.
Former New York Yankee Alex "A-Rod" Rodriguez also has money in NRG along with his buddy Shaq. When not playing pretend paramour to Jennifer Lopez, A-Rod invests much of his free time in esports.
Jimmy "J-Roll" Rollins, is another professional baseball player that loves to game in his spare time. J-Roll also owns part of NRG along with Shaq and #ARod — this is turning out to be some sort of all-star sporting conglomerate right here.
Electro-house superstar DJ Steve Aoki is the first major spinner to sign an esports deal. Aoki is a longtime gamer with a particular soft spot for #Overwatch. Last year his love for all things gaming led the DJ straight to Las Vegas for the acquisition of local esports team Rogue, which also has a team in Counter Strike: Global Offensive.
Former LA Lakers superstar Earvin "Magic" Johnson Jr. is the latest basketball legend to buy into esports. Magic, along with hunky life coach and philanthropist Tony Robbins, co-own a company called aXiomatic.
With a controlling interest in Team Liquid — big competitors in StarCraft II and #LeagueofLegends — aXiomatic is looking to be the dominant force within the world of esports.
Hollywood pinup Ashton Kutcher was perhaps one of the first A-list actors to invest in esports, having staked a claim in Unikrn, a platform that allows viewers to bet on games in real time. From League of Legends to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Unikrn had the esports gambling market locked down from the get-go.
Renaissance man Rick Fox is the first big-name Canadian to throw his hat in the esports ring. Fox, a retired basketballer turned actor, has been a fan of gaming for years and a super fan of esports since its inception.
Currently, the super stud owns one of the fastest-growing esports companies out there, Echo Fox, a team that boasts a plethora of talent, from League of Legends to Smash Bros. If I were a betting man, this would be where I would put my money.
So if you are looking for a team to support, then why not pick your favorite celebrity and jump on the bandwagon? Esports will soon be a regular feature on sporting television, so my advice is to get in now and become an esports OG, just like Shaq!
Are you an esports fan or a sporting puritan who thinks gaming and sports should be separate? Sound off in the comments below.