eSports is a relatively new phenomenon.Press photo
Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov is investing $100 million in the country’s premier eSports club, Virtus.pro, providing a launch to boost the sector to global success. The announcement that Usmanov (#71 on Forbes' global billionaire’s list, with a fortune of $14.4 billion), a co-owner of Facebook and the Alibaba online store, is putting money into eSports provides the fillip required for this Russian sector to come of age.
The world of eSports, in which participants take part in organized multi-player video game competitions, has become a rapidly-growing industry over the past few years, with increasing numbers of recognised competitions springing up, allowing many players and teams to turn fully professional.
"The funds will be used primarily for projects with potentially high investment returns,” Virtus.pro's marketing director Alexei Nazarov told RIR, explaining that the investments are planned for a period from one to two years.
“It is for the organization of new tournaments at the federal level, the development of media resources, the creation of a new information portal about eSports, and the development of sports arenas," said Nazarov.
"With this investment, Virtus.pro becomes the world leader, as no other eSports organizations have such capital," said the Cyber.sports.ru project's producer Yaroslav Komkov, commenting on the deal. He noted that Virtus.pro is one of Russia's strongest eSports clubs.
How virtual games became a business
eSports is a relatively new phenomenon. Although the first competition, a StarCraft strategy tournament, took place in the late 1990s, these tournaments have started to draw massive audiences in recent years. Most frequently, they are organized by computer game developers.
"eSports, popular among young people, are increasingly becoming part of the show. So we see it as a source of content that can be sold,” said Alexei Nazarov. "The standard media monetization model works here; broadcasting, advertising, sponsors."
The sponsors of the tournaments are, as a rule, technology companies (manufacturers of gadgets, computers, keyboards, and so on), electronics manufacturers, and telecommunications companies. Occasionally, financial support is provided by conventional sports organizations. In Turkey, for example, the Besiktas sports club bought a key Turkish eSports team, becoming its main sponsor.
It is unknown how lucrative eSports are in Russia. No attempts have been made yet to calculate the revenues of tour organizers or media companies involved in broadcasting eSports events, said Nazarov.
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