Mark Cuban, owner of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Dallas Mavericks, has said that owning US esports teams is not a viable financial investment.
The 61-year-old, who purchased a majority stake in the Mavericks for US$285 million in 2000, cited the lack of stability in the meta for games such as League of Legends and Overwatch, along with poor viewership in the US, as reasons for avoiding owning any gaming outfits in the country.
Speaking on Fox Sports’ Fair Game, Cuban said he “absolutely wouldn’t” invest in esports, adding that leagues are fully dependent on the game’s creators, while pointing out the volatility of the game’s competitive environment, including regular patches “every 90 to 120 days.”
For Cuban, this has led to uncertainty in games, with their ever-changing nature having the potential to put off fans compared to popular traditional sports in the US such as basketball and football.
“I think a lot of people who bought into teams, not the esports themselves, had no idea how bad a business it was, no idea,” he said.
“Is it growing? Yes, but domestically here in the United States it’s an awful business, owning an esports team. I think you’re seeing a lot of consolidation, as people get out and try to sell. A lot of people are trying to raise more money, and valuations are going down.
“(The problem is) a lot of people who bought in didn’t recognise the difference between a stream and a viewer in Europe or Asia, against a stream here. You see all the Twitch numbers, and even Overwatch League only have 300,000 or so maximum viewers. That’s not a huge number.”
Despite his grim assessment, Cuban pointed to the Asian market as a good investment opportunity, which is seeing its leagues rise steadily in popularity. Europe too is pulling in solid numbers, including the League of Legends European Championship grand final, which nearly hit a million concurrent viewers according to EsportsCharts.
“Being in Asia, there’s money there. If you’re in Korea, there’s tons of money there, it’s real,” Cuban said. “If you’re in China, there’s money there. If you’re here, no so much.”
Cuban owns the Mavs Gaming esports team via the basketball franchise and has invested in the NBA 2K League team, opening a dedicated 12,000-square-foot facility last year. He also said in 2018 that Mavs Gaming could be profitable in two years, however did note that it would be “expensive to be great.”