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Business of Esports Minute #037: Clueless Olympics, Valheim Success, Saudi Gaming

A week of news covering the intersection of business and gaming / esports, all in about one minute – everything you need to know from the “profit of esports” himself.

037 – February 21, 2021

In this week’s Business of Esports Minute: Clueless Olympics, Valheim Success, and Saudi Gaming.

From the keyboard to the boardroom, this is the Business of Esports Minute! Every single week, I, Paul Dawalibi, the prophet of esports, will be bringing you my hottest takes from the week, basically everything you need to know about the business of esports all in about one minute. Let’s go.

This week, the International Olympic Committee demonstrated their continued lack of understanding of the esports opportunity. In their latest recommendations for the future of the Olympics, they’ve decided to focus on “virtual sports” or video game simulations of already-accepted sports. They have explicitly excluded competitive games like League of Legends or Call of Duty. This is a completely artificial differentiation and they’re getting bad advice if they’re thinking about video gaming in this way. Furthermore, the Olympics has an aging audience problem, like most traditional sports. They need esports. Not the other way around. 

Valheim is making news this week, having sold 3 million copies in 16 days and reached a concurrent player peak of over 500 thousand. Most amazing is that all of this was accomplished with a 5-man development team. Valheim is also now in the top 5 games of all time on Steam in terms of concurrent players. In the past year, we’ve seen a string of indie hits seemingly come out of nowhere and achieve massive success. I think the AAA developers are not reacting fast enough to these trends. They should have agile corporate M&A departments set up to quickly acquire the teams behind these breakout hits. 

Finally, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund is pursuing investments in the gaming industry. The sector is favored by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has said that he is part of the first generation in the kingdom to grow up playing video games. The Riyadh-based Public Investment Fund acquired more than $3B of stock in Activision Blizzard, EA, and Take-Two. This is all part of the Crown Prince’s plan to diversify the Saudi economy. First, I think this is incredibly forward thinking of him. Second, it’s yet another indicator of the huge potential for gaming and esports in the Middle East. 

For far more detailed insight and discussion into the business of esports, as well as the most exceptional line-up of guests, please tune in every week to the Business of Esports podcast and every Wednesday evening into the Business of Esports after-show livestream. Also make sure to follow us on Twitter @bizesports and on YouTube at The Business of Esports. 

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