AC Milan Esports: Why Bother?
8.3 || webmaster
AC Milan have a squad of professional FIFA players who represent them in competitions nationally and internationally. It’s part of the growing trend within the football world and beyond it in the NBA, for instance – in which the NBA2K League is a hugely popular competition in and of itself, with airtime on ESPN. Traditional sports clubs, like AC Milan, like Wolfsburg, like Lakers Gaming (esports branch of the Los Angeles Lakers) are forming esports teams in their name, in their likeness. What’s the point, though?
The Growing World of Esports and Online Gaming as Global Entertainment
Fundamentally, titles like FIFA and NBA2K are globally loved games. Millions and millions of people around the world play them, purchase every annual iteration, commit to it for the year, and repeat that cycle. EA and Take-Two Interactive (the parent company of NBA2K publisher 2K) organise and co-organise the official, professional competitions for these games, where the best of the best gather, representing clubs and franchises, to compete for titles. The NBA2K League even replicates the NBA’s draft system, further reinforcing the traditions within the esports.
The audience and organisation are largely already there for the clubs to step into the limelight. As is the market. There is an audience – one that’s growing – ready and waiting to be entertained by professional gamers on titles the audience themselves play in their free time.
In addition to this, esports attracts a casual audience too. There’s an enjoyment to be had in the skill and energy even if they don’t play the game, especially if content creators are engaged in playing the game, as these personalities often transcend whatever it is they are playing anyway, being the attraction themselves.
Other sports beside football and basketball have had made a success of leaning into content creation. For instance, GGPoker hosts the Omaholic Series, which everyone who buys in can play in, and they have their content creators JNandez and Minthon streaming on Twitch during the events. GGPoker have assembled a larger branch of ambassadors and content creation squads which helps build their image, attracting new audiences.
Do AC Milan need to build their image? In the footballing world, probably not. Of course, their current rebuild has the goal of competing at the elite ends of both Serie A and the Champions League. If successful, and they can sustain their eliteness, their profile will be back at the levels it used to be because of their contemporary triumphs, rather than their historical ones. Additionally, the culture of AC Milan transcends the confines of the sport, somewhat, as the romance of the red and black jerseys and the San Siro is the mystic. However, existing within the digital realm offers new reference points to checklist the club’s profile.
Possessing a strong esports arm, which couples into a strong content creator branch, builds out AC Milan’s profile in emerging markets and spheres.
Many fans may not understand it. Though, of course, they needn’t. In all likelihood, whereas the world of poker oscillates between online and land-based more naturally and easily than football does, the traditional, physical football will always dominate. However, the emerging success of esports leagues for titles like Overwatch, League of Legends, and Call of Duty, mean that there is a market for esports to be equal to many sporting audiences. The digital representation of football deserves as much respect as the ‘real’ thing.
While still in its infancy, with EA making more concentrated efforts to improve the organisation and growth of the e-Leagues as national competitions and, also, continental and international events, AC Milan are involved, riding the wave.
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