Aoki decided to get involved in esports after playing in a Street Fighter V exhibition match in April this year. After scanning the space carefully, he decided that an investment in ROGUE fit the bill.
ROGUE CEO Franklin Villarreal commented:
“Our organization was expanding to the point where we wanted to bring on another partner. We couldn’t be happier that we met Steve when we did. His genuine passion for the eSports scene was exactly what we were looking for.”
— Neon Future Aoki (@steveaoki) October 2, 2016
Aoki told ESPN, “As an avid player of Overwatch, their [ROGUE’s] dominance caught my eye and after getting to know them, I realized that we shared the same goals and interests in team building and competition.”
Aoki is the first major musician to buy in to esports
Steve Aoki is following in their footsteps, but is the first major musician to make a public esports investment.
He can easily afford it. According to esports industry analyst Manny Anekal, Aoki made $23 million in 2015.
Aoki is a lifelong gamer, and has been involved peripherally in esports for a couple of years. At his production studio in Los Angeles, he has produced esports live streams with both celebrities and professional players.
Aoki’s involvement will be hands-on
Steve Aoki has is a business man as well as a musician. He founded his own label, Dim Mak Records, in 1996, and has expanded his product range to clothing and other merchandise.
The press release that ROGUE published on TwitLonger—ROGUE’s own website is still a shell—said that Aoki would play a “supportive role in the Overwatch team’s continued success,” and help in the development of its CS:GO team.
He will also provide “hands on assistance in strategic management and brand development.”
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More musicians may see synergies with esports
Other musicians may well take note of his investment. There are real prospects for cooperation between the music business and the growing esports audience.
ESL One New York, which took place over the weekend, featured a performance by the band Krewella, after a sponsorship deal was agreed with Fuse TV.
It is not just the audience demographics that cross over between esports and music; the live tournament production and live concert production business skills are closely related.
Marketing and merchandising, using social media to create buzz, and the need to create an event that will be authentic to the millennial audience are common to both industries.
As an investment, ownership of an esports team looks cheap
Over the last year, a bewildering variety of investors have taken an ownership stake in esports teams.
A few examples of the broad reach of investor involvement in esports are:
• December 2015: Former NBA player Rick Fox buys Team Gravity.
• May 2016: Private equity company SierraMaya360 invested in Team EnVyUs.
• June 2016: French TV Channel Canal+ sponsors Team Vitality.
• May 2016: German football club Schalke 04 buys the LCS slot from Team Elements.
• June 2016: Comcast sponsors Team Evil Geniuses.
• September 2016: Team Liquid bought by aXiomatic, a diverse group of high profile investors mainly from the film, sports and internet industries.
• September 2016: The Philadelphia 76ers buys Team Dignitas and Team Apex.
In the current investment climate, bonds, equities and property are all at prices that look unsustainable using traditional valuation methods. Investors in search of anything that is not over-priced need to expand their horizons.
For investors who already have some esports knowledge, an esports team may be one of the cheapest ways to get involved.
It’s notable that in looking around for esports teams, Steve Aoki may have picked a relatively new and inexperienced team, but ROGUE has experienced esports industry professionals as its other owners, and it has done well on the televised TBC ELEAGUE where it placed third last week.
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