E-Sports Revenue Isn’t Stopping Anytime Soon, Says Immortals GM
Immortals eSports
(Last Updated On: March 26, 2017)

The profitability of e-sports has oftentimes come into question by analysts and outside observers. Questions about non-endemic financial support, unsanctioned gambling, unions, player pay and revenue growth have swirled around the e-sports industry as of late. It’s no surprise given the millions of people who play games and watch competitive streams, as well as the large pools of money won by the top-class competitors vying for glory, fame and the thrill of unrivaled competition.

Well, I managed to get in a few questions to the general manager of the Immortals e-sports team, Nick Phan, who explained where they stand with their team’s growth and expansion, explained where the industry is going, and talked about where it currently stands as far as revenue growth and potential profitability is concerned.

Immortals is currently prepping for the LCS playoffs this spring and they have active team rosters in popular games like Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Super Smash Bros., and League of Legends. They’re a powerhouse team who managed to finish in the top 3 during the 2016 League of Legends season, and the top 5 during the 2016 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive season. Phan also explained that growing and branching out into new games is always a risky move, but it’s sometimes worth it.


One Angry Gamer: With Immortals recently having branched out to games like Super Smash Bros., and Overwatch, how important is it to balance whether or not an e-sports team is pursuing a game that’s popular versus pursuing a less popular game where the team might excel in their performance due to being better at a less popular title? For instance, is game popularity versus team performance something that ever enters into the equation for determining the growth and attainment of success for a team?

Nick Phan: I think every e-sports organization has a healthy consideration for viewership and marketability of an esport before it seeks for/signs a team. The ideal situation is to have the best of both worlds where the team or players being picked up are at the top of their class and the e-sport in question is buzzing and trending around the community. However, at the end of the day, everything is more or less of a gamble as to whether: a) the esport will continue to grow in viewership/interest, and b) the team being picked up will exceed expectations and grow their success and maintain consistency. The challenge is to balance both risks and rewards when expanding, and always listening to what your fans want.

OAG: In regards to continued investments from major sporting organizations like the MLB and NBA, are these short or long term deals? Are they looking to test the waters with e-sports or is this something they’re committing to over the long haul?

Phan: I don’t have full insight on every investment that has come through the scene but it seems like most of the investors coming from the traditional sports world are looking at e-sports with the vision of growth in partnerships, which is more aligned with long-term deals as opposed to short-term investments. I believe everyone is getting a feel for the climate of the industry and as time passes, I get the sense that people are realizing how much potential this industry has to explode in the next few years.

Immortals e-sports

OAG: One of the biggest criticisms I’ve come across about e-sports is that it’s difficult right now for the electronic sports league to establish partners and generate outside revenue not directly tied to video games. Is the criticism of long-term revenue valid, or has partnerships with organizations like the MLB or NBA proven that e-sports has already made the necessary steps to secure funding from partners not necessarily tied to video games?

Nick Phan: I strongly believe that the culture of partnership acceptance in e-sports is growing day-by-day. This industry is extremely marketable, as seen with the successes of individuals launching successful careers in streaming/broadcasting on platforms like Twitch (which was bought by Amazon, a non-endemic entity in e-sports!)

The hard part of getting involved with e-sports is a general lack of knowledge and understanding for outside industries. It’s a bit difficult to identify the target audience for marketing and entertainment from the outside; but when people get down into the trenches, it’s difficult to not see the value in events such as the League of Legends World Championship Finals, which consistently bring in several times more concurrent viewers than some of the biggest traditional sports events that we see today (March Madness, World Series, NBA Finals, etc.) You’re seeing companies like Red Bull and Monster Energy creating separate divisions within their companies dedicated to JUST gaming/e-sports (Coke e-sports and Monster Gaming, anyone?); Geico and Axe are getting involved; literally every basic faction of the corporate world is dipping their feet into e-sports. Why is that?

Well, it’s because the e-sports demographic is young and engaged and already provides an authentic, niche voice that gives life to the industry in a very relatable way. I think all of these different partnerships and engagements we see today are paving the way for more creative integrations that’ll ultimately complement the flourishing e-sports community further… and it doesn’t look like the money is stopping any time soon either. I think what e-sports needed from the start was exposure, and the big deals that are coming in now (i.e. the Philadelphia 76ers placing Dignitas branding courtside) are helping to put e-sports on the map for any and all non-endemics.

With Immortals recently having branched out to games like Super Smash Bros., and Overwatch, how important is it to balance whether or not an e-sports team is pursuing a game that’s popular versus pursuing a less popular game where the team might excel in their performance due to being better at a less popular title? For instance, is game popularity versus team performance something that ever enters into the equation for determining the growth and attainment of success for a team?

I think every e-sports organization has a healthy consideration for viewership and marketability of an e-sport before it seeks for/signs a team. The ideal situation is to have the best of both worlds where the team or players being picked up are at the top of their class and the e-sport in question is buzzing and trending around the community. However, at the end of the day, everything is more or less of a gamble as to whether: a) the e-sport will continue to grow in viewership/interest, and b) the team being picked up will exceed expectations and grow their success and maintain consistency. The challenge is to balance both risks and rewards when expanding, and always listening to what your fans want.


Big thanks to Nick Phan for answering the questions. You can learn more about Immortals and their e-sports endeavors by visiting their official website.


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About

Billy has been rustling Jimmies for years covering video games, technology and digital trends within the electronics entertainment space. The GJP cried and their tears became his milkshake. Need to get in touch? Try the Contact Page.