With its new MotoGP esports championship underway, Katharine Byrne talks to Milestone's marketing manager Andrea Loiudice about the future of real world esports.
Why turn the MotoGP series into an esports championship now?
It's something that's been discussed for months with [MotoGP owner] Dorna, and in the end we agreed that starting with a smaller version of the championship this year was a good strategy.
This way, we’re opening the channels with the sponsors and the media, and starting to communicate this new project and build a community of fans around it. We know this is going to be the toughest year, but both Dorna and Milestone are fully committed on a strategy for the next years and are really excited about the big potential of esports applied to a real sport like MotoGP.
Why did you decide to make the championship exclusive for PS4 players?
In year one, we need as much support as possible, both on the technical side and on the communication side, so partnering with PlayStation sounded like the right choice for this first year. They’ve helped us a lot in developing the technical side of the competition, and will support the championship with a full communication plan targeted towards their enormous audience both in Europe and the US.
Is there a lot of extra work involved in supporting an esports championship?
I would say it needs the same amount of effort as launching a game in the end. Community, sponsorships, events, communication, technical management of the championship… There are a lot of areas that need to be managed properly if you want to succeed in esports. Starting with a smaller version of the championship also gives us the opportunity to explore all these areas and be prepared for the next years when the MotoGP esports championship will step up and need a fully dedicated team.
The season finale will be held in Valencia to coincide with the last round of the FIM MotoGP World Championship – is it important to link esports events with real-world events?
This will be the future for esports based on real sports. The power of synchronizing real events with esports events in terms of impact and visibility is huge, and can create an easy link to catch the attention of the more generic media and audiences. Imagine seeing on TV the final event of the MotoGP esports championship just before the real final race, or the final match of a football game championship in the break of the real final match. This is something very interesting for TV channels and might help to broaden the esports audience a lot, stepping out from the gamers segment and attracting a bigger audience.
Have you got any real-life riders involved with the tournament?
The riders are helping to promote the championship. Each rider involved in one of the qualification challenges is going to play it himself and provide advice to the gamers. We have plans to involve them even more in the future.
Pictured left to right: MotoGP riders Marc Marquez, Jack Miller, Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro
This is one of the big advantages of having Dorna involved in the project since the beginning, it opens a lot of doors for us which would have been really hard to open if this had been a Milestone esports championship and not the official Dorna MotoGP esports championship as it is.
What are Dorna's plans for the MotoGP esport championship going forward?
The plan we have in mind for the esports championship is a multi-year plan. We think this is a challenging but realistic goal thanks to the involvement of Dorna. We really liked their realistic and pragmatic approach of growing step-by-step following a broader vision. We’re already working on next year esports championship and I’m sure some other traditional sports will follow shortly.
How do you feel about big, traditional sports brands investing in esports?
There's a great opportunity for them to attract millennials, who are watching less TV and are much less interested in “real” sports. Most of traditional sports have understood the advantages of creating a link between real sports and esports. We work with many different licensed motorsports and I can tell you all of them are interested in this area, so I’m pretty positive about the future and I’m convinced traditional sports investing in esports will be one of the trends we’ll witness in the next few years.
What kind of growth do you see in European esports viewership over the next 12 months?
Right now, Europe is far behind the US and Asia, but this means there's a lot of room for rapid growth. FIFA can be a very good driver here – more so than the typical esports games – and I hope in a couple of years MotoGP will also be able to help growing the esports viewership and market dimension in Europe.