The line between sports and esports grew fainter still this week as NBA franchise the Philadelphia 76ers bought up the Dignitas and Apex esports organisations before, just a day later, a group of wealthy investors with ties to numerous US sports franchises acquired a controlling stake in Team Liquid.
The 76ers are merging the Dig and Apex brands and plan to compete in the North American League of Legends Championship Series next year under the Dignitas label (great news for existing owners of the once-proud summoner icon if nothing else). Dig also has active teams in Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
Meanwhile, Team Liquid has been taken over by a consortium of investors led by Peter Gruber and Ted Leonsis, who run sports/entertainment businesses that own or co-own the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Football Club, Washington Wizards, Washington Capitals and Washington Mystics. And if that's not sexy enough for you, one of the other investors in Liquid is NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. Liquid also competes in League, Counter-Strike, Overwatch and a bunch of other games.
As much as we love esports, it doesn't seem unfair to say that esports fans can occasionally be a little... insecure, shall we say, about whether their passion is taken seriously in wider society. So this kind of cultural credibility (NBA owners!) will probably be great ammunition next time our parents or partners suggest we do something productive rather than watching nine hours of Counter-Strike.
It's also something of a growing trend. Last year saw major investment in western esports to form teams like Echo Fox, NRG Esports and Immortals, and everyone's favourite esports research organisation NewZoo reckons fabled "non-endemic investment" (i.e. brands and people from outside the existing ecosystem) will help global esports revenue rise from $325m in 2015 to over $1bn in 2019. YOU HEAR THAT, DAD? BUY ME A NEW MOUSE ALREADY.