No Stopping This Diversification Train: AT&T Bets On eSports

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AT&T's diversification ambitions are hardly a secret given how the company just recently went to court in order to defend the very definition of a big-business acquisition – its $85.6 billion purchase of Time Warner.

The wireless carrier that apparently wants to stop having people think of it as a wireless carrier and more as a well-intended mega-conglomerate — an oxymoron, if there ever was one — is now also looking to get into video games, or more specifically – esports.

Cue the firm's newly announced partnership with ESL, the grandfather of contemporary eSports that may be old but is far from weak and crippled, largely due to its ability to continue getting money out of companies like AT&T.

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Lowering the entry barrier

As virtually every multiplayer video game under the sun has an eSports scene these days, ESL and AT&T had to get creative in order to deliver something new. Their solution is the ESL Mobile Open, an eSports league for people not good enough to participate in "real" eSports leagues. While specifically catering to amateurs is likely to impact viewership, it's the kind of an interactive initiative big businesses are all about, so it's no wonder AT&T was happy to dish out an undisclosed sum in order to get to the "founding sponsor" status. After all, ESL parent MTG is close to $2.5  billion in annual revenue and you don't get to put up such figures without learning how to sell old people on young people's entertainment.

"Everyone can be a star" is more or less what ESL Mobile Open is all about, with that kind of a line coincidentally being near the top of the list of favorite things for marketing departments of conglomerates to hear, right below things like "making a better world" and "anything is possible."

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As a result, AT&T is paying for a series of competitions in PUBG Mobile, Asphalt 9: Legends, and Clash of Clans. The majority of the initiative comes down to grassroots tournaments hosted by ESL Play, an online gaming platform with some eight million users by now. Gameloft's mobile racer is the only exception as it features a built-in tournament system.

"Hello, fellow kids"

The concept has the potential to pull millions to participate, which is not bad for something with a total yearly prize pool of "only" $330,000, a far cry from sums secured for even the most obscure of professional eSports tournaments, let alone something extremely popular and competitive. Various DreamHack and ESL One events will host ESL Mobile Open finals and numerous seasons have already been confirmed, so if that sounds like your idea of a good time, you can already register for participation in some or all three tournaments during their inaugural seasons.

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While PUBG is now essentially irrelevant on dedicated gaming machines, its mobile version is still going strong, so it's no surprise that the PUBG Mobile tournament is by far the most lucrative one ESL and AT&T are hosting this year. With this being an amateur initiative, the overall prize pool still isn't anything out of this world, sitting at $53,000, which is a sum meant to be shared by the top 80 teams, ten of whom will earn a trip to DreamHack Dallas in late May where the final will be played.