In the past couple of years, the Alibaba Group has put in some pretty huge investments in eSports with large-scale tournaments as well as a significant Asia Olympics bid. Formed and launched in 2015, Alibaba’s sports arm Alisports has always had its sight set on cashing in on the rapidly evolving world of eSports where video game pros square off in video game tournaments with huge cash prizes. Considering the millions of online viewers that are drawn into eSports tournaments, it is quite evident that the booming eSports industry is on its way to unprecedented highs in the next few years. While no significant strides have been made in regards to attracting a lot of sponsors and television rights, eSports have been backed by some great sports stars and with Alisports consistently pushing its limits in regards to the same, we should see the efforts paying off handsomely very soon.
Alisports’ first series of its World Electronic Sports Games reportedly cost the company about $22 million but the results were not very impressive – it was followed by a seventy percent loss in the investment. However, Alibaba is not throwing in the towel just yet since they are already predicting that their tournaments will continue raking in losses for the at least the next half-decade and that is a financial hit that the Chinese commerce mega-corporation is prepared to take.
“We are prepared to lose money. We can accept the losses now as we hope to promote this sport,” said Alisports CEO Zhang Dazhong in an interview with AFP, “For a sport that has a lot of participation, it must have a bright future. Even if for now you don’t make a lot of money, in the future, you’ll definitely be rewarded. This is something we firmly believe in.”
He further added, “We estimate that in five to ten years the business model will be more complete. On top of the competitions, we have to bear in mind the electronics business and marketing related to eSports.”
Findings from a recent study by Deloitte revealed that participation in eSports has bloomed especially on the onset of the traction gain of virtual games in the recent past – as of now, the worldwide eSports audience is estimated to consist of around 400 million people which close in on the numbers for baseball and American football. This year, the size of the eSports market is anticipated to double to about $696 million from the $325 million recorded in 2015 when Alisports was launched. Despite the fragmentation of the eSports market, Alisports and its parent company Alibaba believes that being that they are the global eSports powerhouse they are assured of plentiful returns from eSports in coming years. This tremendous leap in eSports popularity has propelled a lot of discussions regarding the inclusion of professional eSport gaming as an Olympic discipline – while not everyone is convinced about such prospects Alisports’ CEO hopes eSPorts will be part of the Olympics in 2024 or 2028.