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Most important esports stories to monitor in 2016

As esports continues to evolve, some bigger-picture issues will, presumably, come to the forefront of the minds of players, fans and developers around the world.

So what’s next? The industry has shown a rapid growth that expects to continue in 2016 and beyond. We’re past the point of wondering if esports is a permanent fixture in the world. It is. So what happens now? Here’s what’s going to be on our radar entering 2016:

NBA + esports = ???

Rick Fox’s announced purchase of a North American LCS team last week was the latest example of an increasing NBA presence in esports. After many fans probably asked, “Who is Rick Fox?” (And he’s not just this guy or this guy, I promise), the next logical thought was figuring out what, exactly, this all means for the industry.

Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward is an esports activist (and even took on noted detractor Colin Cowherd this year). Memphis Grizzlies minority owner Steve Kaplan is part of the investment group for new LCS team Immortals. Two of the Sacramento Kings’ owners purchased an LCS team. And Dallas Mavericks owner/businessman Mark Cuban keeps popping up.

Where will it go from here? What does it mean? You can be assured we’ll be following.

Into the mainstream

2015 was the year more big names started to notice esports, but in many ways it felt like only the beginning. After naming an esports editor a couple weeks ago, how does ESPN plan to incorporate esports into its conglomerate?

The first televised CounterStrike: Global Offensive league will take place this summer, led by Turner Broadcasting. How will that unfold? (Specifically considering WME/IMG Entertainment, one of the league’s partners, owns an agency that represents professional teams). What will be the next big company, media-related or not, to invest in the industry? Stay tuned.

The evolution of the Wild West

With the number of people watching and types of people getting involved in esports, the structure of the entire industry will inevitably change. In an interview with The Score eSports, Immortals CEO Noah Whinston broached the topic of a players union for professional players. (A year earlier, The Daily Dot documented the kind-of-shady nature of League of Legends contracts).

Will this be the year for movement on that front? A union would be the first step in regulating salary structure, players’ rights and all other collective bargaining that exists in other major sports. Esports is still in its infancy, and the lack of a governing body will continue to hinder progress. But the status quo will not remain forever.

Will Riot relent?

As Joe pointed out last week, Riot Games’ stronghold on League of Legends has positive and negative aspects. Although Riot’s structure could be useful in stabilizing wildcard regions, it’s worth wondering if the organization will consider changes in North America, Europe and Asia.

The LCS system could use some tinkering, and fans crave more third-party tournaments, but Riot has yet to relent. Will it ever?


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