Major League Baseball is wading into the esports realm. MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) and Riot Games have announced a partnership around the popular esport game League of Legends. MLBAM will guarantee at least $50 million per year to Riot Games through 2023, making the commitment more than $300 million.
The objective of League of Legends is to work together with a team to take down the enemy’s base. You control a champion, essentially a superpowered character with special skills (think Mike Trout), and work together with your teammates to devise the best strategy for beating the other team (think pregame meetings with Terry Francona). Given how much both sports revolve around bases, it was only a matter of time before the two sides got together.
Though MLBAM is guaranteeing a significant amount of money, it’s probably not going to impact the way you view baseball. Aside from maybe the occasional commercial on MLB.TV, casual baseball fans likely won’t be hit over the head with League of Legends advertising. Baseball aside, MLBAM has built a powerful engine for streaming web content and that — more anything that happens on the diamond – is what this deal is about. MLBAM has worked with a number of different clients over the years, including Disney, HBO and NHL, and those rarely bleed into the baseball-viewing experience.
With that said, it would be fun to see players do commercials for the game. We’re thinking something similar to the World of Warcraft commercials where Mr. T was a Night Elf Mohawk.
In fact, just steal that idea, but use Bryce Harper. Who doesn’t want to sport Harper’s haircut in a video game? And is anyone really opposed to Harper talking about playing as Amumu the Sad Mummy? We didn’t think so.
For League of Legends diehards, it doesn’t seem like your experience will change much. Audiences can still watch League of Legends in the usual places, and content will continue to be freely available. There may be premium experiences offered later, but the two sides haven’t worked out what that might look like at this time. There will likely be an app, though neither side was willing to reveal much about it just yet. According to Riot Games, the deal “won’t start hitting materially until 2018.”
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