February 16, 2021
Hello! This week in Protocol Gaming, your weekly guide to the business of video games: EA's Todd Sitrin on its esports strategy, Steam's China loophole and vikings just won't stop coming.
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In the world of esports, publishers have increasingly been trying to take control. Take Riot, which started moving its externally-run League of Legends leagues in-house; or Activision's franchised Call of Duty and Overwatch leagues.
At EA, Todd Sitrin's not so sure taking control is a good idea. As head of EA's Competitive Gaming Entertainment unit, he's trying to build a truly mass-market audience — and he thinks partnerships are the way to do it.
But if you've got partners, you've got to keep them happy. "Many publishers seem to only think about themselves, and how much money they're going to make," Sitrin said. "That is a recipe for ultimate failure."
And keeping partners happy ... isn't easy. Sitrin thinks you have to take it slow: "I think what ends up happening with, maybe, some others, is they've gone from 'We introduced a game' [to] 'boom, we have a franchise league.' That is a gigantic jump, and it's forgetting that you have to take the viewers, the fans, and you have to make them come along in the process."
In the near term, Sitrin thinks we might see a shakeout. "Esports is going through a normal cycle," he said, and we're at the point in the cycle where the hype has to face "the realities of the market." People who were in esports to flip their team in three years for a ton of money, he thinks, are now realizing that "this is a long-term investment."
We'll have more from Sitrin, and his plan for esports without sports, on Protocol later this week.
You have to find the right solution that meets both your internal and external collaboration needs.
That's why competitive businesses today are turning to Slack, the channel-based messaging platform, to close communication gaps with partners and customers in the age of remote work.
First it was God of War. Then it was Assassin's Creed. And now a new game, Valheim, has come from nowhere and shot straight up the Steam charts, selling 2 million copies in just 13 days. Vikings have conquered the gaming industry: As we speak, I bet Marvel is greenlighting a Thor game; Activision's talking about Call of Duty: Colder War; and Microsoft's putting horns on Master Chief's helmet. Can't wait.
Correction: Last week's newsletter was corrected to convey that GameSpot's calculation about how easy it would be for Microsoft to make acquisitions used Microsoft's overall profit, rather than its gaming profit.
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