DraftKings is expanding the fantasy horizon. The popular daily fantasy sports site announced it will add eSports in its lineup, alongside NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL.
The Boston-based website will begin offering fantasy eSports contests on Oct. 1, with the League of Legends World Championships. This means players can draft a team of professional gamers and compete against others online for real money, much like the traditional fantasy sports like football and basketball.
Participants can play for free or pay a minimal $3 entry fee to win $25,000, among other cash prize contests.
“eSports is one of the world’s most popular spectator sports,” DraftKings CRO and co-founder Matt Kalish said in a statement.
For the League of Legends World Championships, DraftKings has partnered with six eSports organizations: complexity Gaming, SK Gaming, CLOUD9, Counter Logic Gaming, Team SoloMid, and Mousesports.
Kalish told Vice Motherboard’s Emanuel Maiberg it took them more than half a year to build the eSports initiative. The preparations include acquiring lolstats.gg, a statistics provider for League of Legends, Dota 2, Counter-Strike, among others. Lolstats.gg will provide the live scoring updates that will determine the winners for the eSports competitions.
There’s one good reason why DraftKings wants to get into eSports—massive audience. According to market research firm SuperData, an estimated 134 million people around the world watch eSports, which helps the industry generate more than $600 million in annual revenue.
But majority of eSports fans come from Asia, which generates more than 60 percent of the industry’s revenue. DraftKings operates only in the United States and Canada, which means that the website will not be able to tap into that market worth $347 million.
Maiberg said Kalish admitted that eSports is “relatively small” in the United States, but they are already looking into new geographies as the company grows.
In a separate interview with Re/code, Kalish said, “The long game here is really tied in more with our international strategy.”
DraftKings is already acting on its worldwide domination plans, starting with London. The company, which had just received a gambling license to operate in the UK, is eyeing to open its new London office by the end of the year.
The DFS site is not the first company to launch fantasy eSports competitions, with Vulcun and AlphaDraft started offering fantasy eSports services early this year. eSports is still a very young business and is going through some issues, such as match-fixing and even DDoS attacks that can affect the outcomes of a match. Still, if there’s money to be made in that area, DraftKings—with its recent $300 million funding round—will not let Vulcun and AlphaDraft have the bigger piece of pie.