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LVP:电竞泡沫背景下投资者所需的正确认识

发布时间:2020-04-24 08:56:05 Tags:,

LVP:电竞泡沫背景下投资者所需的正确认识

原作者:LVP 译者:Willow Wu

“电竞”究竟是什么?

这个开头可能会让你感到有些意外,毕竟我们要讲的是游戏行业中最令人兴奋的领域之一。

但因为我们瞄准的是投资的早期阶段,所以我们得思考得更深远一些,包括公司的长期目标以及他们要如何跟上行业的新兴潮流。如果我们不能在“电竞”的意义理解上达成一致,那合作地基就已经岌岌可危了。

“电竞”(esports)一词是“电子竞技体育”(electronic sports)的简称,从这个词中你就能看出一些信息。

竞技体育——需要一定水平的敏捷、运动员之间的存在竞争,以及能为观众提供娱乐的活动。

从投资者的角度来说,虽然都是体育相关领域,但投资利物浦足球俱乐部和投资运动服饰公司(比如Nike)是截然不同的,更不用说ESPN这样的体育电视频道。

Building in Fortnite(from gamasutra.com)

Building in Fortnite(from gamasutra.com)

诚然,体育是一个成熟的产业,但是有投资者会像某些公司对电竞那样,用一种全面撒网的方式投资传统体育的相关项目吗?

不,当然不会。

即使你的想法跟我们一样,认为电竞有潜力成为游戏行业(年收益1500亿美元)中一个不容忽视圈子、成为体育产业(年收益6000亿美元)的一份子,而且在这个电竞热潮中,一些表现突出的公司已经得到了数十亿美元的投资(The Esports Observer估计2018、2019年投资数额大概是60亿美元)。那为什么到2019年电竞才达到年收益10亿美元的里程碑?

电竞不应该被视为附加于游戏之上的独立个体。电竞是游戏,游戏是电竞,两者在根本上是交缠在一起的。

从这个角度来看,一切就清楚很多了。

“电竞是游戏领域众多正在崛起的趋势之一,它的规模远远不是精英游戏玩家玩几个特定游戏,或者数万观众聚集在一个体育场观看世界锦标赛,甚至数百万人观看一场直播这样的” ——这是将职业电竞,一个小众市场,与电竞混为一谈;整个游戏市场都可能会受此迷惑。

理解这一点对早期投资者来说尤为重要,你要思考的是未来的收入和利润会从哪来,而不是急于着在当下搞个大新闻(比如某场电竞锦标赛的数据创造了记录之类)。

现在在电竞圈过得风生水起的都是哪些人?答案是非常明显的——直播平台和游戏发商本身。但是在那个狭窄市场中,真正创造精彩的是那些拿下大赛(Dota 2国际邀请赛、《英雄联盟》全球总决赛、《堡垒之夜》世界杯等等)冠军的选手和队伍。

这就是为什么很多钱都投给了职业电竞队伍。就比如,韩国电竞队伍Gen.G从数位投资者那里获得了4600万美金,著名演员Will Smith也是金主之一。

但是冠军只有一个,能够蝉联冠军的队伍更是少之又少。世界排名最靠前的两支队伍Team Liquid和OG,他们创造的终身收入是3300+万美元。考虑到运营一支职业电竞队伍的成本——暴雪给《守望先锋》联赛签约选手开出的底薪是50000美元——这可不是一个良好的投资机会。

不管怎样,这些赛事只不过是电竞的冰山一角,底下才是更深层次、更重要的本质——竞争。

我们相信竞争是一种长期趋势,影响着所有的游戏,它是许多人、投资者在急于博关注的过程中被低估的一个道具。

部分原因在于竞争有多种形式。三消游戏中的竞争肯定跟battle royale的竞争完全不一样。但竞争元素是一股上升的潮流,对游戏的留存率和盈利能够起到积极影响,从而形成一个更加强大的游戏社区,鼓励玩家提升自己的技能,相关游戏直播和解说视频的热度也会因此提高。正式的电竞元素可以起到更好的鼓励作用,那些围绕线下展开的活动更是能受益于此。

从这个意义上说,电竞应该是促进了游戏的发展,而不是创造革命。评估其价值和增长的系统不确定性,以及任意游戏都有可能成为下一个电竞项目的现状都表明了这一点。

最受欢迎的电竞游戏依然是《英雄联盟》《反恐精英:全球攻势》和Dota 2,它们是这一切的“始作俑者”,至今仍有不计其数的玩家、观众、参与其中,关注着谁能拿走诱人的大奖。

《绝地求生》《部落冲突》《炉石传说》《使命召唤》以及Free Pire等都是非常成功的竞技游戏,都增加了正式的电竞元素。《神之浩劫》《火箭联盟》《虚荣》这些以独特方式展现乐趣的游戏,事实证明充其量也只是小众电竞产品。

许多计划利用电竞迅速获得成功的初创公司也是类似的情况——他们的大多数人都认为,跟随大众所预测的方向走,即使一开始你只能从大蛋糕中获得小小的一块,但最终它会变成一块美味可口的大蛋糕。但实际上,他们瞄准的是电竞的一小块区域,一个小而相当静态的市场。我们已经在预言电竞泡沫的破裂,投资者和被投资者的下场自然也不言而喻。

当我们考虑电竞的发展机会时,我们感兴趣的是那些有扩大规模计划的公司。这并不一定意味着他们应该无视职业电竞,它可以成为你触及更多用户的有力工具。但就其本身而言,职业电竞并不能提供我们想要的收入。

这也就是电竞投资失败的主要原因。

无论是为吸引电竞粉推出运动饮料或服装,还是那些专注于赛事或场地管理服务的初创公司,都没表现出扩大规模的能力,更不用说那一大堆些提供电竞培训或下注服务的公司了,连维持盈亏平衡都难,未来的盈利机会更是无稽之谈。这些只是普通的商业点子套上电竞的包装。

初创公司和投资者需要更深入地思考电竞到底意味着什么,它对哪些游戏大趋势有协同作用,以及新兴的机会将如何出现。

就比如一个近在眼前的问题:有5G技术支持的云游戏世界的出现,职业和业余游戏玩家、主播、网红以及观众的新等级体系将会如何发挥作用,“游戏”这个概念很可能会以全新的方式呈现出来。

但这就是另一个话题了。

本文由游戏邦编译,转载请注明来源,或咨询微信zhengjintiao

What does ‘esports’ mean anyway?

That’s probably not the opening you’d expect in an article about one of gaming’s most exciting sectors by an early stage investor such as LVP.

But, because we invest early into new companies, we have to think more deeply, both about those companies’ long term goals and how they play into emerging industry trends.

If we can’t agree on what ‘esports’ means, we’re already on shaky ground.

What’s in a name?

As a portmanteau of ‘electronic sports’, the word itself offers some pointers.

Sports – ‘activities involving a certain level of dexterity, competition between players, and entertainment for spectators’ – captures the core elements.

From an investment point of view, however, plenty of gaps remain. Investing in Liverpool Football Club is very different to investing in a sports apparel company such as Nike, much less a sports broadcaster such as ESPN.

Granted, sports is a mature industry, but would anyone invest in ‘sports’ in the way some companies seem to be investing scattergun into ‘esports’?

No. Of course not.

Even if you consider – as we do – that esports has the potential to become a sizeable part of the games industry (worth $150 billion annually), and the sports economy (worth $600 billion annually), why is esports struggling to become a sub-sector worth $1 billion annually?

And that’s despite many billions of dollars (The Esports Observer reckons $6 billion in 2018 and 2019) having been invested into companies at the vanguard of the “esports explosion”.

The value proposition isn’t working. Something doesn’t add up.

Show me the value

The reason is esports shouldn’t be considered as some sort of separate bolt-on entity to games. Esports are games and games are esports; the two are fundamentally intertwined. Nobody owns football, but Riot owns League of Legends.

Viewed in this way, things become more clear.

Esports is one of many emerging trends within the games sector, something much broader than elite gamers playing a handful of specific titles, or tens of thousands of spectators in a stadium-located world championship, or even millions of people watching (or not) a live stream.

For one thing, this is to confuse professional esports – a niche market – with esports; something with the potential to impact the entire games market.

This is especially important to understand when it comes to early stage investing, which is all about considering where revenues and profits will accumulate in the distant tomorrow, not about generating headlines today.

Because, at present, it’s depressingly clear who does best out of esports. It’s the streaming platforms and the game publishers themselves. But within the narrow market of esports, it’s those players and teams who win the big tournaments – Dota 2′s The International, League of Legends’ World Championships, Fortnite’s World Cup, etc.

This is why lots of money has been invested into professional esports teams. For example, South Korean team Gen.G raised $46 million from investors including Will Smith in 2019.

But only one team a year can win the big prize, and very few teams have demonstrated the ability to win the big prize year-on-year. Examples include Team Liquid and OG, who have both generated over $33 million in life-time earnings. Given the costs of running a professional esports team – Blizzard’s Overwatch League set a bar with a $50,000 salary minimum – that’s not a well structured investment opportunity.

Anyhow, these events are just the icing on top of esports’ deeper and more significant essence: competition.

Evolution, not revolution

We believe competition as a long term trend impacting all games, and it is something many people and investors have underestimated in a dash to embrace headlines.

Partly this is because competition comes in many forms. Competition in a match-3 game looks and feels very different from competition in a battle royale game. But competitive elements are a rising tide with the potential to increase retention and monetisation in many, if not all, games.

This, in turn, drives stronger community within games, as well as encouraging higher skill levels among players, both of which feedback into consumption of gaming streams and videos. A formal esport element can further encourage such activity, especially around real-world events.

In this way, esports is best viewed as enabling an evolution of gaming, not creating a revolution. This is underlined by the systematic uncertainty of how to estimate its annual value and growth, and of individual titles promising to be the ‘next esport’.

The most popular esports remain League of Legends, Dota 2, and CS:GO. These are the games that kickstarted the whole scene and, in keeping with the expected winner-takes-all model, continue to account for the majority of players, spectators and revenues.

Every other big esport games – PUBG, Hearthstone, Clash of Clans, Call of Duty, Free Fire, etc. – were already successful competitive titles, which added formal esport elements. Meanwhile, SMITE, Rocket League, Vainglory etc – interesting games in their own way – have proven to be, at best, niche.

It’s a similar state of affairs for the many startups with business plans to ride the esports rocket to success. Most have assumed gaining a small slice of what everyone predicts will eventually be a large pie is sufficient.

But, in actuality, they’ve targeted the very thin end of the wedge of professional esports; a small and fairly static market. No wonder we’re already seeing the esports bubble bursting with predictable consequences for investors and investees alike.

Have you got scale?

Instead, when we consider the opportunity for esports, we’re interested in companies with business plans aligned to scale as broadly as possible.

This doesn’t necessarily mean they should ignore professional esports. It can be a powerful lever for marketing to a more general audience. But in and of itself, professional esports doesn’t offer the venture-size revenue scale we’re looking for.

And this has been the main reason why esports investments have not been successful.

Neither startups launching sports drinks or apparel for esports fans, or those focused on event or venue management services, let alone the masses of companies selling esports tutorial packages or betting services, have demonstrated any ability to scale, even to break-even, let alone future profitability. These are simply small, generic business ideas with esports tacked on.

Startups and investors need to think more deeply about what esports actually means, which wider gaming trends is it synergic to, and how emerging opportunities will arise.

An obvious example would be how this new hierarchy of professional and amateur gamers, streamers and influencers, and spectators plays out in the world of 5G-enabled cloud gaming in which the very concept of ‘the game’ will likely be exploded in novel ways.

But that’s an article for another time.

(source:pocket gamer


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