Video game sports are on the cusp of going mainstream. Can game publishers, team owners, and investors like Rick Fox figure out a business model?
Rick Fox woke up one morning in January and went to the gym. It’s a standard destination for Fox, who won three championships playing basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers in the early 2000s. But he wasn’t planning on exercising. Instead, he walked into a building in Santa Monica, California, and greeted a bashful-looking group of about a half-dozen men whom he pays to play video games.
Fox, along with three business partners, runs Echo Fox, a company that employs dozens of people dedicated to competing in professional video game leagues. (It’s the subject of the latest episode of the Decrypted podcast; subscribe here on iTunes.) The men he was meeting on this particular day play League of Legends, a fantasy-themed game developed by Riot Games, a subsidiary of Chinese gaming giant Tencent Holdings Ltd., in which two teams control characters seeking to destroy their enemy’s base while defending their own. It’s one of the biggest titles on the pro gaming circuit. Fox had called his employees to the gym for training: In a few days the North American League of Legends Championship Series, one of the most prominent video game leagues in the world, would begin its season.
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