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First eSports Reality Series Hits the Airwaves: What It Means to Event Organizers

31 Oct, 2018

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
New Show to be Produced by Overtime, Traditionally a Streamer of Basketball and Football

It’s a cross between MTV’s then-groundbreaking reality series, “The Real World,” (about a group of strangers dropped into the petri dish of a house and covered 24/7 going about their day-to-day lives) and eSports (a growing field if there ever was one). And sports event owners need to know that it is guaranteed to raise awareness to bring even the mainstream kids into events.

According to an article in Sport Techie, youth sports-focused digital media startup Overtime is producing a new eSports-based series called “The Gaming Life.” The docuseries will follow five Fortnite gamers who will compete under the name Team Overtime as they try to win $1 million in prize money.

The first part of the series was uploaded to Overtime’s YouTube channel last week and follows the five gamers meeting for the first time at the PAX West Fortnite tournament in Seattle. (They come from different backgrounds; two have dropped out of school to play Fortnite, one is a former varsity football player and another is trying to make money to regain custody of his daughter from a now-defunct marriage.) The second part of the series follows the team as players competed in the Fall Skirmish finale at TwitchCon, which offered a $2.6 million prize pool. The Gaming Life is Overtime’s first attempt at creating eSports-related content.

So with eSports already on the grow, why is this so groundbreaking? Because it has the potential to break down any remaining stigma associated with gaming as a whole. Overtime has a history of producing high school basketball and football content tweens and teens to follow on social media. This brings the tournament into a sports forum and basically tells kids that gamers are athletes too.

And talk about an accessible platform. Fortnite, a first-person-shooter viewpoint game (Sorry, Thomas Bach) is already a global phenomenon with 125 million users, according to this article in the Irish Times. The normal version is completely free to download and play – you can buy the premium version if you want upgrades – and is set up for PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Mac and iPhone, so almost anyone with a device, computer or console can use it.

The game involves 100 players jumping from a plane on to an island where they fight and kill each other. The field of battle shrinks as the game advances, so players are forced closer and closer together. The player who is the last survivor wins.

(Needless to say, it’s not something the IOC would endorse).

Most fighting games use realistic graphics to depict serious situations, but Fortnite is cartoonish and more humorous. Players can dress their characters as dinosaurs or rabbits, among other things, and make them dance. (The game is responsible for the spread of the Floss dance move - as well as a variety of others.) They can also team up with friends, communicating via the on-screen chat or through headsets and microphones, which adds a social aspect.

And that, says Overtime’s head of production, Dave Zigerelli, is why it makes such a great backdrop for a new series.

“Overtime is about culture and Fortnite is loved by personalities ranging from Drake to Ben Simmons. We’re excited to cover eSports and feature content our people are passionate about,” Zigerelli told The Wrap. “It’s five strangers working together to chase the dream. It has heart, it’s funny and it’s perfect for bingeing.”

Seeing a potential growth for Fortnite, multiple organizers, both online and in-person, have arranged tournaments. Colleges are building arenas and declaring majors and plenty of convention centers and arenas have made sure they are able to handle the demands of competitive events.

Globally, organizations are taking note of the spending power of the eSports industry. The World Economics Group’s most recent report indicates the sport will soon be a $1 billion industry with over 300 million fans.

What more do you need to know? Nike (yep, Nike) just signed its first eSports athlete, Chinese League of Legends player Jian Zihao, and he's teaming up with LeBron James for a clever new shirt design. But Nike isn't the first sportswear company to dip its toes into video games. Champion partnered with the multi-game Team Dignitas back in September, providing official uniforms for the team along with casual wear. And the rise of eSports among mainstream media has seen a similar boost recently, with Ninja appearing as the first professional gamer on ESPN Magazine's cover.

Generation Z, the target gamer audience (defined as those born between 1995 and 2010) has taken to following sports action online like nobody else, and as previously mentioned, Overtime has made a substantial living by catering to that crowd and posting high school sports content across varying social media platforms. Business Insider reported last year that Overtime videos reach 11 million unique users a month—95 percent of whom are on mobile and under 25. GenZ's age spread means that the oldest members are about 22 and are just entering the workforce. And while the younger part of this age group's spending may be currently limited by parents, it won’t be long before they are team members in the offices and workplaces being run by Millennials (who have a remarkably open mindset about connectivity). Being involved with eSports makes total sense for Overtime since the esports industry is powered by the younger generations — from both an audience standpoint and in terms of professional gamers. The fact that a sports media company is sponsoring its own professional video game team shows the effect the eSports boom is having on the traditional sports ecosystem.

Gen Z is also co-ed. In fact, just recently, global eSports organization GenG announced the creation of an all-female Fortnite duos game. The team consists of professional gamers Tina Perez and Madison Mann, better known by their respective gamertags, “TINARAES” and “Maddiesuun.” This team was first seen at the Fortnite Fall Skirmish held at TwitchCon.

“Our fans should be thrilled about our Fortnite team and what this development means for the future of esports,” said Arnold Hur, Chief Growth Officer of Gen.G eSports.

With the rise of a new reality show and the influx of women gamers, event owners need to be ready for increased registration – with more beginner-friendly events, skill clinics and expos to welcome in newcomers. The industry of eSports is going nowhere but up.

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