Bayern Munich and seven other leading Bundesliga clubs want to develop in the eSports market. What does that mean for the eSports landscape as we currently know it?
When the news was doing the rounds at the beginning of April, that Bayern Munich was to buy Fnatic, one of the most successful eSports teams in the world, it seemed to be like an April Fool's Joke. A few months later, the headline is not so deceptive. "We are currently analyzing the area of eSports very closely," said Bayern's digital manager Stefan Mennerich, who is responsible for the project.
In addition to Bayern Munich, there are seven other Bundesliga teams who are watching the market with great interest: Borussia Mönchengladbach, Hamburg, Werder Bremen, Ingolstadt, Bayer Leverkusen, Cologne and Hertha Berlin.
It's not just teams in Germany, who are attracted to eSports. Top clubs, such as, Manchester City, Besiktas, PSV Eindhoven and Sporting Club de Portugal are also active in the field. Even Manchester United, regarded as the biggest football club on the planet, recently took their first steps in eSports.
Huge growth for Bundesliga clubs in eSports
Wolfsburg and Schalke, two Bundesliga clubs already involved, want to further expand their gaming department. Recently, the Royal Blues was strengthened by several more "FIFA" players, who will join their "League of Legends" teammates in the eSports scene.
What is interesting for the football clubs is the decision to choose an eSports game. So far, the teams have been limited to "FIFA" but many are entering the bigger eSports leagues with "League of Legends", "Hearthstone" and "Rocket Leagues".
The idea of a virtual Bundesliga is not unrealistic and makes sense to the clubs, according to Wolfsburg's managing director Thomas Röttgermann. At the national level, though, one needs to be patient because there is bound to be a Champions League at European level.
The intentions of the clubs are clear. According to the "Newzoo" portal, the international eSports market is booming with over 143 million viewers annually, a continually upward trend. Specifically, a young group is targeted, who want to bind themselves to clubs since computer 'gambling' has long become a socially-accepted pasttime for youth.
A Ruhrderby soon?
In the "League of Legends" championship, Schalke reached an all-time high on all social media platforms, despite sporting setbacks in the LCS (League of Legends Championship Series). The club from Gelsenkirchen now has a huge community of followers after less than one year in the market.
The question will soon arise as to whether the entry of football clubs into the eSports landscape will have a positive effect on sport. Do you really want a league made up of European football clubs? Traditional and successful eSports teams could be the goal of multi-million dollar businesses. SK Gaming, Fnatic and Envyus could run the risk of disappearing under new names or leaving the scene completely.
The entry of football clubs could change the character of eSports. However, not all clubs will take this step to invest - Borussia Dortmund, for example, has made it clear that it was a football club and not an eSports organization. So, for an eSports Ruhrderby, between Schalke and Dortmund, we might need to wait a little longer.