Much like other professional athletes, professional esports players rely on equipment to maintain top performance. While that usually means a certain kind of cleats or sneakers for an NFL or NBA player, in esports that typically means a particular mouse, keyboard, headset and even computer.
But as those esports players rise through the ranks and sign on with teams, they often are faced with team-specific deals in those categories that require them to use products that they might not prefer or be as comfortable with.
“Esports players, like all athletes, like what they like and are not always keen on changing brands, for obvious and understandable reasons,” said Adam Gertz, senior counsel at LA-based law firm Morrison Rothman LLP, which has an esports-focused practice in which it has represented players. He added that, due to sponsorship requirements, many esports teams limit their players to certain select brands.
With that in mind, esports organization Counter Logic Gaming passed up on some category-specific deals and instead expanded its partnership with online electronics retailer Newegg.
While the deal makes Newegg a crucial partner for CLG’s League of Legends Championship series team, it also makes the company the official online technology retail partner, giving players the ability to sort through Newegg’s collection of consumer electronics and gaming products and choose what they like.
“You’re coming into the CLG family and you get to pick what you want to play with,” said Dan Fleeter, head of esports at Madison Square Garden Co. and CLG’s chief operating officer. MSG has had a controlling stake in CLG since July 2017.
“On that point, it’s very beneficial for those players to be able to choose their own equipment. It means they can pick what they’re most comfortable with – whether it’s PCs, monitors, headsets – and it really allows for an emphasis on player happiness and comfort,” he said.
Gertz said that he thinks that CLG players’ ability to have free reign over their gear and products benefits not only them, but CLG as well.
“The fact that they will have their pick from all of the brands offered in Newegg’s catalog would seem to make CLG a more attractive option for future stars and free agents,” he added.
Fleeter is unsure if other esports brands will be as open to players dictating their equipment choices.
“I don’t know if [a CLG Newegg-like partnership] will become the norm overnight,” he added. I do think that generally, the push towards a player-first [mentality] will lead to long-term competitive success and team happiness,” he said.
That player-first focus is something that MSG Co. has looked to install since acquiring CLG.
In summer 2018, CLG and MSG opened the team’s own performance center in Los Angeles, offering their gamers perks like a replica LoL studio and a kitchen and private chef. This latest move with Newegg is a continuation of CLG’s attempt to strengthen its relationship with its players.
“If you think back to a lot of the moves that we’ve made over the last couple of years, it’s been about being player-first and player-centric,” Fleeter said.
While the coronavirus pandemic has limited some of the things CLG is currently doing – for example, contests and matches are being played from the homes of the CLG streamers – all aspects of the Newegg deal, including Twitch assets, social media integration, jersey patch wearing, and other benefits have continued.
On the players’ side, their online engagement has risen during the coronavirus outbreak. In March, Twitch set all-time marks for peak daily active users (22.7 million), average concurrent viewers (1.6 million), and number of streamers (65,000).
As a result, CLG streamers saw their minutes viewed increase nearly 40% year-over-year, according to MSG spokesperson Ryan Watson. On Twitch specifically, CLG’s overall minutes across the platform in March were up 27% year-over-year.