‘Chiu on This’ is a short and regular opinion blast
In an interview with HLTV, lurppis says that “No one in esports has found a way to monetize fans.” That got me thinking as to the various types of experiments that have been run throughout esports history. Beyond sponsorship (which as far as I can tell is close to maxed out for the various actors within any particular esports), here are the other examples.
In SC2, MLG tried to go pay-per-view as they thought the old model was completely unsustainable. So what they did was charge $15-$30 depending on the membership of the prospective viewer to watch one of their arenas. Their arena events were held in their offices where they to a bunch of top pros to fly over and play a bunch of games for a title. In total that was about 50 cents or a dollar per hour of entertainment relatively speaking. In the end it combusted and MLG stopped running these.
The FGC tried to do it for Canada Cup with the infamous 8.95. I don’t think it ever made that particular event solvent as if it did I’d imagine a majority of other events would have followed suite along that model.
You could try views, but in reality a vast majority of people use adblock so that hardly matters. Especially when sponsorships eventually figure out that the math is such that esports fans spend less money so they will adjust their budgets relative to that amount.
There was the entire PEA deal where they tried to create a tournament (RFRSH did as well with BLAST). This gives a lot of controlling interest in the parties involved, but the entire thing was shot down by the lack of communication and players. Even if such a thing were to exist, it’s hard to imagine it gaining much value in the market as is.
There is the Znipe service up now that lets you pay money to watch streams from events and the first person views of different players. That’s potentially possible if the hardcore community is large enough and willing to pay (I don’t have that much of a gauge as to how successful it is or isn’t).
Finally, the most successful iteration of fan monetization comes from the games themselves. Namely skins, cosmetics, and compendiums. I still think Valve had the answer a long time ago as to how to make the entire ecosystem solvent relative to the community size and interest. By allowing compendiums to TOs, the TOs could make direct money back off of the fan and the fan in turn got actual in-game items and perks rather than just a show (which as we’ve see is wildly unsuccessful). If you are able to do it with TOs, I could imagine a world where you could also do it with individual teams or players. For instance, imagine you could buy a voiceline in CS:GO from Zeus saying “I love you olof.” Or a specific team designed skin or player designed skin.
Naturally of course, that only existed in Dota 2 and was shut down a long time ago. However I do think that is the only successful way I’ve seen someone in esports monetize the fan and so it is currently the only viable solution, though we’ll have to see if any current GMs of teams can find another way to crack it.