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Esports is different from traditional sports in many ways, something Riot Games recently pointed out while discussing its vision for the future of its esports titles. But it has continued to take inspiration from sports in many ways, including the Overwatch League’s hometown-focused franchise.

But due to esports’ virtual focus, tournament organizers have struggled to find ways to make money from events. There are no sold out arenas with hundred dollar tickets (for most matches). There is not a tailgate culture with fans spending money on food and merch. Instead, tournaments are streamed on Twitch to allow fans to watch from home.

Esports caster Erik “DoA” Lonnquist felt that tournaments should take advantage of this format in a new way: Pay-per-view tournaments.

Esports Community Argues Over Pay-Per-View Tournaments

A long-time, founding employee of MLG recently criticized the esports community for taking streamed tournaments for granted.

On Twitter, Adam Apicella said that he noticed esports fans complaining about the production value of various tournaments despite the fact that they watch it for free. Apicella felt that the fans were not aware of how much it costs to run a tournament broadcast.

“We have DECADES of investment that needs to happen before this is the commercial behemoth it could be,” he continued. “But instead of being okay with production and quality being in line with revenue, we expect it to be traditional sports. Again, while expecting to pay $0 to watch the content.”

In response, DoA brought up the concept of pay-per-view. He explained that charging PPV fees for weekend events and locking season VODs behind subscriptions would help esports grow. He added that it would help improve production.

DoA said: “Being tethered to game company marketing budgets isn’t getting us anywhere.”

The sentiment was met with very mixed results, with both sides responding with passion. A fellow commentator felt that esports fans need a reality check, but was unsure who should give it to them.

But journalist Jacob Wolf felt it was simply too late. He estimated that 80% of the esports fanbase would stop watching if they had to pay because they are so used to it being free.

“We’ve conditioned the esports audience specifically to be spoiled brats when it comes to free content. Now we gotta live with it,” he wrote.

Pay-per-view events are nothing new. Overwatch League and League of Legends have both considered pay-per-view content, essentially providing a paid version of the broadcast that would have exclusive content and give fans more control over what they saw.

Right now, most esports events are run by video game developers like Riot and Blizzard or by large third-party organizers like ESL FaceIt. It’s unclear if these larger organizations will go through with a pay-per-view option, especially if other titles don’t go along with it.

Other ideas for profiting off of streamed tournaments have included advertising viewer-exclusive in-game merch and team-based items. But it’s unclear how tournament organizers will go about making events more lucrative in the future.