Baseball could enter esports as MLB eyes virtual expansion

The growth of esports has brought many new names and games into the industry, and that looks set to continue with the news that Major League Baseball is exploring the options that would allow it to build a virtual scene to mirror it’s real life competition. The move would see America’s national pastime follow suit after makers of football, basketball and hockey games have already taken the relatively bold move to create a virtual analogue to their existing products.

Reports in the The ESports Observer, who were reporting on SportTechie’s inaugural State Of The Industry conference held in Brooklyn, NY, appeared this morning, quoting Major League Baseball and MLB Advanced Media’s Jamie Leece. Leece, who is Vice President of Games and VR, has previously worked at TakeTwo gaming and been on the board of PrePlay, and worked as a Sales Manager for Lucas Arts Entertainments early in his career, meaning he has more than a passing knowledge of game development and the industry overall.

This is very different from esports, or course, but Leece seems confident MBLAM can make the sector work for them. “I think it’s all about fan engagement, and it’s about finding the right place to go in,”, he said on Tuesday. “So we certainly are looking at it.” He did express some doubt about the current flock of titles and their competitive viability though, telling TEO “Ultimately I think the product for any of the sports out there that would be the big esport probably hasn’t been made yet.”

Sport titles struggling to make an impact

It is refreshing to see a representative of such a group have a more realistic idea of where the industry currently stands on these sort of titles, which are very much on the edge of success and to an extent propped up by the huge leagues that are invested. At this point, the football, basketball, American football and other titles that have been brought into esports rather forcibly have not really made an impact on the endemic viewer.

Baseball will be another challenge altogether of course, as the game itself is so intrinsically slow and tough to engage with that it is already notorious for being all about the snacks. Articles have appeared in recent times detailing the fact that the game has taken a back seat to sports like American Football and Basketball in television and live viewership, meaning the game is both harder to sell, and in some ways more in need of a shot in the arm from esports than other such titles.

The SportTechie event brings together industry leaders from across the country to examine what shaped the scene in 2017 and what we can expect in 2018. With support from Oracle Hospitality and Sportradar, the invite-only event will feature networking receptions, panel discussions, and a keynote address from DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the NFLPA. Events such as these have become more and more popular as the Venture Capital floods into the scene, aiming to aid in the growth of esports generally as more interest is generated by growing viewing figures, prize pools and beyond.