Baseball

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Baseball Postseason Play, eSports Style

17 Oct, 2018

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Event Owners May Take Their Cue from Attempt to Monetize Teams that Didn't Make the Playoffs

Organizers of pro sports had better get ready for this one: teams that don’t make postseason play can still face off with one another – in the virtual battleground of Fortnite.

According to eSports Insider, tournament organizer UMG Gaming has partnered with the Major League Baseball Players Association through its subsidiary UMG JMG to create an eSports series in Fortnite for active and retired Major League Baseball players.

The MLBPA Challenge Series (yes, it’s really called a series) kicked off on October 1 (right after the end of regular season baseball and will run through to the Live Championship Finals in Las Vegas in December. Fans will be able to watch the competition on Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch, which will show all matches from the series. The finals will feature 16 teams of MLB players competing for the MLBPA Challenge Series title and cash prizes.

UMG has brought on Caesars Entertainment and The Wall Gaming Lounge as partners to host the final stage of the competition.

Why is it important to sports business? Because, as Dot eSports notes, “this could also pave the way for similar competitions between professional athletes who play different sports: who wouldn’t want to see Gordon Hayward take on the best Fortnite player that the MLB has to offer?”

It also opens the door to the monetization of postseason play – possibly without using trademarked names of leagues (or even teams, for those athletes who have enough name recognition.)

Additionally, it raises the possibility of more Fortnite-inspired celebrations, like this dance.

There’s no doubt that Fortnite is off-the-charts popular, but Venturebeat pundits don’t think it has hit its peak yet.

“Players spent $8.2 billion on digital games in July [worldwide], up 3 percent from the same month last year,” reads SuperData’s report. “Growth came mainly from console once again due to Fortnite and rising full game download rates. Premium PC was the weakest segment this month, down 14 percent year-over-year.”

Fortnite was also the top-grossing game digitally on consoles and No. 5 on PC, according to SuperData, which also noted the game made $318 million across all platform in May.

Fortnite is the biggest free-to-play game on consoles ever. It continues to drive sales of gamepads, headsets, currency cards, and likely consoles themselves. No free-to-play game on consoles has ever had such a strong effect across all of these product categories.

And the thing about free-to-play games is that people tend to get into them more when they have a good reason. On mobile, people spend more time and money on games when they get a new device. That has turned Christmas into the biggest day of the year for mobile games, because people open up their new iPhones or tablets and then rush to the App Store to put their shiny new devices through their paces with a dozen games or so.

So, with an MLBPA Fortnite Series taking place in December, the time will be ripe for game marketers to make the most of the holidays.

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