eSports Goes Global as Alibaba Bets On Long-Term Gains

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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.

F1 Racer Fernando Alonso Gets Into The Esports Action

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Well, it is about time! We have gotten used to having soccer, football and basketball superstars diving into the eSports arena and now Fernando Alonso is set to be the first Formula One (F1) racer with an eSports team. The team has been launched in partnership with Logitech and G2 eSports with the McLaren Honda driver serving as the team’s principal. To show eSports enthusiasts just how serious they are, the team has even already enlisted Cem Bolukbasi, an F1 eSports league finalist, who will participate in a number of games across different platforms. Furthermore, Alonso’s F1 outfit, McLaren, recently confirmed that they had signed Rudy van Buren the victor of the “world’s fastest gamer”, a competition McLaren themselves had created to find someone of such capacity. Rudy was nominated by Alonso himself to be the official simulator driver for the next season in 2018 – all thanks to his amazing simulation racing skills and engineering knowledge. McLaren also becomes the first and only eSports racing team with an eSports director. The eSports team, according to Alonso, is open to any gamer with the ‘talent to perform’.

Alonso had quite a lot to say about his new endeavor during the announcement of Yas Island’s Formula One (F1) circuit;

“I am really excited. A couple of months ago I had this proposal from one of our partners, and I thought it was a nice idea to create and link these two sports. The fans will no longer be spectators. The fans will no longer just be spectators. The fans will be a key role in my world and they will drive for my team maybe one day. I think we all have a gamer inside us, and competition is no different. I am extremely happy and there are unlimited possibilities in our team. An elite team, professional team, racing in the best races in the world – especially here in the F1 championship, but not only here – in Refactor, the world’s fastest gamer from McLaren, in the E-simulators, and that is something we will explore with time.”

The F1 superstar has never been one to shy away from his support of existing racing simulators citing them as a being an area worthy of exploration. Massive changes in technology have seen the racing simulators get better and better, which may in future even blur the line between real F1 races and simulations. Alonso adds that this is a logical extension as he considers each and every F1 driver to be a ‘gamer at heart.’ The virtual space opens new doors for younger racers who might not get the opportunity to race in the real world as well as the younger audiences. Virtual racing has often been played an important promotional tool for finding the next big thing in car racing – people have actually taken motorsports into career considerations after being motivated by eSports.