The New York Yankees are the latest professional team to dive into the world of competitive video gaming.
One of the world’s most recognizable sports franchises is investing in the fast-growing esports industry, as the Yankees said on Thursday that the team is partnering with Vision Esports, an investment vehicle that includes Echo Fox, the professional esports team owned by former NBA player Rick Fox. The Yankees did not disclose financial terms of the investment, but the deal gives the baseball franchise a stake in Echo Fox as well as the Vision Esports-owned Twin Galaxies, which compiles gaming statistics and rankings, and esports video production company Vision Entertainment.
Yankees co-chair Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement that the team is “thrilled to partner with Vision Esports.”
“We look forward to exploring synergies between the Yankees and all of our portfolio companies to maximize the opportunity for a successful esports ecosystem for teams, players, and fans,” Stratton Sclavos, General Partner of Vision Esports said in a statement.
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Echo Fox is expected to be one of the 10 teams to be granted franchise ownership in Riot Games’ North American League of Legends Championship Series, a high-profile esports league that requires a reported $10 million buy-in for each ownership slot for the upcoming 2018 season. In addition to Riot’s League of Legends game, Echo Fox also fields teams that compete in gaming tournaments based around titles such as Activision’s Call of Duty, Capcom’s Street Fighter V, and Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros.
The Yankees are just the latest major professional sports franchise to bet on the burgeoning esports industry, which is expected to reach $1.5 billion in annual revenue by 2020, according to one estimate. On Thursday, ESPN reported that the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers also landed a spot in Riot’s North American League of Legends Championship Series, while the Philadelphia 76ers acquired two esports teams in 2016. Other professional team owners such as the New England Patriots’ Robert Kraft and New York Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon also own esports teams that compete in Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League.