Esports may be a big buzzword in Nevada casinos, but a Las Vegas-based team is currently sparking the most chatter.
The “Rogue” esports team has gone from a little-known outfit to globetrotting champions in a matter of months. Last year its CS:GO team won the Mountain Dew Video Game League championship, while its Overwatch team has earned almost a quarter of a million dollars on the international circuit.
Rogue is so popular, it has even attracted celebrity DJ and competitive gaming enthusiast Steve Aoki to buy in as a co-owner.
“When they go to China, they have screaming fans with Rogue jerseys and signs,” Rogue CEO and cofounder Derek Nelson told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Most of our big tournaments, they pay hotel, they’ll pay appearance fees, they’ll pay prize winnings.”
Aoki has vowed to build Rogue into an esports powerhouse, but you could argue they already are. Last week, the team was acquired by “esports infrastructure” entity ReKT Global for an undisclosed sum.
The deal provides the team with a financial buffer and capital needed to enter its players into the biggest tournaments in the world. Because regardless of how good you are, if your team can’t afford the buy-ins, you can’t play.
Somehow, we were able to pull out just enough money to keep the team going,” Nelson said. “They were the best players in the world, so we had to pay them at the top of the industry standard. We were just betting that it would all work out.”
Overwatch, the first video game designed specifically with esports in mind, turned out to be a literal game-changer for the nascent Rogue squad, as it focused efforts on mastering the team-based first-person shooter. Overwatch is now huge on the esports scene and Rogue’s foresight is paying off.
Esports in Casinos?
With a new dedicated esports arena at the Luxor in Las Vegas scheduled to open in March, and with more and more casinos hosting esports events and taking tournament bets in their sports books, the casino industry seems convinced esports could play a significant role in gaming’s future.
But while casinos have said esports events are profitable, all of the money is currently made from the sale of food and beverages. The bigger question, and one that casino execs are dying to know, is how do you truly monetize esports itself?
It’s a question that Las Vegas’s Rogue team, however, isn’t exactly struggling with at this point.