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The sober Dutch approach to esports

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The sober Dutch approach to esports
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The vicious slash of 2020 didn’t quite find the achilles tendon of esports, but even the largest event of the largest esport, League of Legends Worlds, moved with a visible limp; only the final between DAMWON and Suning hosted a live audience.

Without live events, sports just don’t have the same spirit.

eDivisie, the official Dutch FIFA league — as well as other major FIFA leagues — had their operations postponed as the first wave of lockdowns covered Europe, at the behest of publisher EA. The esports league is operated by the top Netherlands football league, the Eredivisie, and both leagues field teams from the same 18 clubs.

Heading up the eDivisie is Esports Project Manager Arnoud Schonis, who spoke with Esports Insider about adjusting to a digital league structure and the current state of esports in the Netherlands.

Pictured: Arnoud Schonis, Esports Project Manager, eDivisie

Esports in the Netherlands

Digitised football competition in the Netherlands has been popular through the eDivisie since 2017. The debut season was aired on Dutch television via FOX Sports, but after two seasons, the broadcast moved to the eDivisie’s official YouTube channel.

The 2020/21 eDivisie winter season concluded with an AFC Ajax victory early this January, enjoying record-breaking concurrent viewership for the completely digital event. But Schonis shared that despite surpassing last year’s peak concurrent viewership, the overall number of views are down on YouTube — currently 56,000 behind last year’s final.

Schonis attributed this decrease to the quality of locations and production ability the team had outside of a controlled studio environment. “Even though the numbers were really good, as soon as we can go back to a studio production, we will,” he said.

eDivisie sponsors, including Dutch telecom company KPN, fashion retailer H&M Netherlands, and insurance provider FBTO, were pleasantly surprised by the viewership considering the circumstances, Schonis shared. While none of these organisations have a direct connection to gaming — telecoms, clothing, and insurance companies have long sponsored mainstream sports.

RELATED: eDivisie reignites partnership with KPN

“Many companies are holding back [from longer-term partnerships] because they first want to see what the results will be after a single year,” Schonis told Esports Insider. “Because it is still, for them at least, a new product and a risk to step in, signing multi-year deals is quite hard, even though ROI has been overwhelmingly positive for every single partner.”

The structure of the Eredivisie and eDivisie cohesion allows sponsors to associate with the 18 clubs and the Eredivisie league brand by partnering with the eDivisie at a lower price point, also enabling access to a younger audience. “This is one of the biggest [unique selling propositions] that we’re selling,” said Schonis.

Dutch pragmatism, applied to esports

FIFA is the darling of Dutch esports. While often left out of esports conversations among its neighbours, the eDivisie commands the greatest local viewership of all esports leagues in the Low Country. 

He attributes this to the easy appeal of FIFA. “The eDivisie is mainstream. It’s understandable [for Dutch viewers]. If you want to explain to your grandpa what the eDivisie is, he will be able to understand that it is the Eredivisie — just digitally. And it’s football, everybody understands football.”

The Dutch are well known for their pragmatic culture, reflected in the bluntness of the language and communication. The Dutch story isn’t one of myths or fairy tales — it’s a matter of fact, of documented history.

Credit: eDivisie

RELATED: eDivisie scores partnership with H&M Netherlands

 “The Dutch can relate to things they understand more easily,“ Schonis explained, “than wanting to understand things that are quite far away from them. Where [other cultures] may really like the idea of stepping into new worlds and discovering fantastical stuff — I don’t think the Dutch really like that.”

The Netherlands’ second-tier traditional football league, the Keuken Kampioen Divisie, created a Rocket League competition attempting to nudge the needle of interest towards esports without a traditional sport counterpart. Schonis said the results have been quite positive, but they cannot yet be compared to the success of the eDivisie.

Will the Dutch take to other esports?

Last year, esports agency META kicked off the official and renewed Dutch and Belgian Leagues for League of Legends esports, featuring a few Benelux football clubs like RSC Anderlecht. Despite the growing attention to League partnerships, the target audience for League of Legends is so niche in the already slim slice of the Benelux esports market. “It just isn’t a Dutch product right now,” Schonis said. “Maybe in a few years, when esports is accepted more, this might change.”

Exhibiting the pragmatism the Dutch are known for, Schonis shared that outside of Dutch football club PSV, no other club has expressed interest in moving into new titles, and neither does the eDivisie. “It’s really hard to explain to the general public that as a football league you are stepping into a shooting game or a fantasy game at this point,” he said. “There’s no relation.”

But without any envelope pushing, the Dutch esports scene will likely only inch forward, while neighbours in each direction compete on the world stage in multiple titles. At the moment, the Benelux region cannot compete as a destination for esports audiences and investment.

The eDivisie carries the load of sponsor, audience and publisher attention for the Netherlands. Its cousin, F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix follows the same formula in offering a traditional-sport digital doppelgänger. But Dutch passion for these esports generally isn’t shared with the rest of the globe.

RELATED: Dutch and Belgian Leagues announce Basic-Fit as a main sponsor

The Dutch market has consumed digitised traditional sports for entertainment for four years, and it doesn’t look like the menu is changing anytime soon. Esports titles in the country are by default broadcast in Dutch, clearly defining the target market for partners, and current investments in the industry are proportionate to the market size. Just as it should be, as the Dutch like it.

A famous phrase describing Dutch sensibilities translates to “be normal and you’ll be crazy enough.” For an onlooker, the normalcy of the most popular sport in the world as the country’s most popular esport does indeed seem crazy enough.

This may not be the ‘new normal’ we’ve been hearing about, but for now it is the Dutch normaal.

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AS Monaco join forces with Gambit Esports for Dota 2 and Fortnite

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AS Monaco join forces with Gambit Esports for Dota 2 and Fortnite
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AS Monaco Esports, the french football club’s competitive gaming division, has announced a partnership with Russian organisation Gambit Esports to launch a new esports team, AS Monaco Gambit.

According to the release, the team will consist of three Fortnite and five Dota 2 professional athletes, including Russian Fortnite players Mark ‘letw1k3’ Danilov and Ilya ‘Toose’ Chernishov

Photo Credit: AS Monaco Esports

RELATED: Gambit Esports bets on VulkanBet as title sponsor

AS Monaco Gambit, and its four-person staff, will promote the football club by wearing AS Monaco’s diagonal jersey as a result of the partnership. The Fortnite division of AS Monaco Gambit is set to debut on February 11th at the Fortnite Champion Series. Moreover, the Dota 2 team will debut three days later during ESL One CIS Online. 

Oleg Petrov, Vice-President and CEO of AS Monaco commented on the partnership in a release: “We are delighted to launch this partnership with Gambit Esports. The creation of a joint team allows us to take a new step in this sector by joining forces with a reference on the international esports scene.

“Esports is a very fast-growing market and an important pillar of our digital development. This orientation responds to a twofold objective: to enable us to diversify our activities by addressing a different, young and highly connected audience, while supporting the club’s internationalisation strategy by developing our presence in key territories.”

RELATED: Nicecactus discusses the future of the Monaco Gaming Show

In addition, a range of co-branded products will be made available online, as well as in Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) stores across Russia. MTS, the largest mobile operator in Russia, made its entry into esports in 2018 following the acquisition of Gambit Esports.

Irina Semyonova, Head of the MTS Esports Department also commented: “The partnership with AS Monaco will allow us to offer a unique experience to football and sports fans. With the creation of the AS Monaco Gambit team, we become the first Russian esports club to establish a relationship with a foreign team. This is a great opportunity to develop our activities.”

Esports Insider says: The partnership sees AS Monaco continue to develop its esports structure. Following in the footsteps of French rival PSG and its deal with Talon, Monaco has chosen to expand its reach to other titles, whilst also promoting its brand to a wider audience. It will be interesting to watch how this partnership pans out for both organisations and if even more agreements like this emerge in the future. 

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GRID and CSPPA collaborate to enhance CS:GO World Ranking System

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GRID and CSPPA collaborate to enhance CS:GO World Ranking System
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Technology-as-a-service data platform GRID Esports and the Counter-Strike Professional Players’ Association (CSPPA) have announced a partnership to enhance the CSPPA World Ranking

The agreement will see GRID utilise its data modelling team and statistical metrics in order to ‘bring automation and transparency to the CSPPA process’.

Photo credit: GRID Esports

RELATED: GRID Esports extends partnership with ESforce Holding

The CSPPA World Ranking collates individual CS:GO team performances over a 36-week rolling period with ‘ranking points’ provided across a select number of tournaments. Points are awarded to individual players with the combined score of the five-person team representing the side’s overall score.

Mads Øland, CSPPA’s CEO, commented: “We have established the CSPPA World Ranking with the ambition to promote a more sustainable work-life for players. We highly value transparency of our world ranking. 

“I believe that a transparent, dynamic, and inclusive ranking not only has a positive effect on a player’s professional career but creates value for the entire CS:GO community. The partnership with GRID is a milestone for CSPPA in the continuous development of our world ranking and brings us closer to our aspiration of making it the go-to ranking system in the world.”

The first edition of CSPPA’s new World Ranking, in partnership with GRID, is expected to be launched in March.

Mathias Holmstrøm, GRID’s Head of Data Modeling, added: “CSPPA has created a great foundation that rewards teams and players for their accomplishments in a fair, transparent and consistent manner. Through our technical expertise and data infrastructure we will work together with the CSPPA and its players to continue improving and expanding upon the CSPPA World Ranking system.

“With the amount of information that touches our systems every day and with the backing of the players association this product shines in its objective to provide a fair and balanced ranking.”


 

RELATED: GRID: Securing the holy grail of sports data collection

Throughout 2020 GRID Esports continued to secure a range of partners, with the likes of ESforce Holding, Live Media, and Allied Esports all signing agreements with the Berlin-based organisation.

 According to the release, GRID is confident that its growth will contribute to CSPPA’s goal of ‘providing a definitive benchmarking of CS:GO team and player quality’.

Chris “chrisJ” de Jong of Fun Plus Phoenix, on loan from mousesports, spoke about the announcement via the release: “A ranking system should be transparent and fair as it has a huge impact on players’ professional careers.” 

“Players are overall very affected by rankings, it affects the perception of teams, getting invites to tournaments, endorsements, and even elements in the contract. A transparent and fair ranking is important for us, the teams, and the entire community. Everyone should be able to understand how a ranking is determined like it is the case with the CSPPA World Ranking”. 

Esports Insider says: CSPPA’s partnership with GRID will further establish the association’s ranking system. The agreement also develops GRID’s growing portfolio of partners as the firm continues to cement itself further in the esports ecosystem, particularly across the CS:GO scene. 

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ESE Entertainment partners with Rio Ave FC

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Entertainment and technology company ESE Entertainment has partnered with football team Rio Ave FC to manage and create esports-related content for the Portuguese Premier League side.

Through ESE’s esports team, K1CK, the company will partner with Rio Ave to develop an esports and gaming infrastructure.

Photo credit: ESE

RELATED: ESE Entertainment enters asset purchase agreement for K1CK Esports Club

K1CK will deal with organising and managing esports events at Rio Ave FC’s stadium, whilst also managing the football clubs esports and gaming operations. Moreover, the partnership will see K1CK’s players represent Rio Ave FC in FIFA competitions.

Nuno SantosRio Ave’s Director of Marketing, commented, “This partnership between Rio Ave FC and K1CK is indeed a great opportunity for both of these ambitious organisations to work together and achieve excellent results.

“K1CK brings us the experience in the esports world that we have been struggling for years to reach, so it’s with the utmost pleasure that we will work together with an esports brand such as K1CK, that has attained so much international prestige.”

RELATED:  ESE Entertainment announces Sector Six Apparel partnership

Rio Ave FC joins the likes of AC Milan, Leeds United and Olympique de Marseille in partnering with esports organisations to boost its activations in competitive gaming. 

Konrad Wasiela, CEO of ESE commented, “It is with great pleasure that we announce a partnership between K1CK and Rio Ave FC, a Premier League football club in Portugal. Premier League soccer in Europe is one of the most prestigious levels of sport globally.

“We are absolutely thrilled at the opportunity to build out the gaming and esports business with Rio Ave FC. We look forward to many fruitful collaborations throughout 2021 and beyond with Rio Ave FC.”

Financial details of the partnership and the duration of the deal were not disclosed.

Esports Insider says: Rio Ave FC have clearly identified esports as a possible avenue and so partnering with K1CK can only be seen as a wise choice. K1CK has the expertise in managing and creating esports related content and organising events, meanwhile Rio Ave has passionate supportive fanbase coming from football. Starting their partnership trough FIFA’s competitive ecosystem is also a logical move. 

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