The sports management company that owns the rights to MotoGP will launch an esports championship this year.
Dorna Sport has announced it has teamed up with developer Milestone to create a championship around the upcoming MotoGP17 game (out June 15th). The competition is run in collaboration with PlayStation.
Milestone told GamesIndustry.biz that this is a multi-year project, with a long-term aim to become "the most important racing esport championship".
The championship will mostly run online, with time trial challenges set to run during and around major races in the real-life sport's calendar. Those with the fastest times will be invited to the season finale to be held in November, and will be broadcast live by Dorna's TV partners. Prizes will include a BMW 2401.
"Dorna knows the potential of this," said Andrea Loiudice, marketing manager at Milestone.
"Some of their sponsors are already involved in esports, such as Red Bull. So I think Dorna probably had input from their sponsors with this, which allowed them to think about the commercial and communication potential of this area.
"So Dorna came to us and said they had a plan. They wanted to put a foot into esports with MotoGP immediately. We said: "Guys, it's pretty late for the MotoGP17 game. We've already started working on it.". But they said they only wanted to start with something a bit smaller. The idea is that in a few years we can become much bigger."
The racing genre is not typically a big area for esports, something that Loiudice is all too aware of. However, he feels the involvement of Dorna can help rectify that. He tells us that some of the issues around racing games and esports is that it can be dull to watch and hard to make compelling, but Dorna's broadcast technology and capabilities can change that. Milestone says it is also working on ways to avoid a situation where races become more one-sided, which can happen often in the video game world as players generally crash more ("The fear of death isn't there," he says).
These are issues that Dorna is well aware of, Loiudice insists.
"They know the environment for esports. They didn't come to us unprepared. They know that it is very PC-orientated and they know it is heavily linked to certain genres of games - like strategy games or FPS. So they have realistic goals. They told us that they want to become the most important racing esports championship. They don't want to change the world of esports, they just want to become the most important racing championship in a few years. So we are starting this year. We have all the potential of Dorna, but not just in terms of communication - which is huge - but also in terms of events creation. So we will do the video game part, they will do all the event management and communication, and hopefully we can achieve something great.
"I am very excited about it. It is a bit scary. But it is something we believe can be good for the whole sector, because MotoGP is a little more mass market to usual games. It is also appealing to the sort of gamers that aren't your typical League of Legends or Call of Duty players.
He continues: "We are very curious to see how this will go, because you are putting together two worlds - something a bit mass-market with something that's typically more hardcore. We think this is something that is going to have an impact on the esports world. Maybe not year one, year one will be a big test for everybody, but in a few years we expect to see some results."
"We are already working on MotoGP18. The idea is to incorporate esports into the next game"
Milestone repeatedly plays down the scope of the initiative for 2017. It knows an online time trial-style competition isn't necessarily ideal for an esports competition, but says it is already developing better modes for the future.
"We are already working on MotoGP18 and working with Dorna. The idea is to incorporate esports into the next game," Loiudice adds. "We're already looking at an online championship mode, with different leagues that you can work your way up through - like in real life, and like how a good esports mode should. We'll look to have that in a few years, maybe even next year.
"So this year, no worries, we have a small version of it. We will start building the community around it. And year-after-year, we'll have more people coming and trying to take part."
Yet despite being a "smaller version", Dorna has already attracted a number of significant sponsors this year, including Michelin and Redbull.
"A lot of those sponsors are already big MotoGP sponsors, so it is a lot easier to talk and negotiate with them," Loiudice explains. "Some others might be getting involved for next year. Seeing as this is just year one, you can see already there are big, big brands involved. This is one of the strengths of Dorna. If we were doing this ourselves as Milestone, I don't know, we'd probably get some gaming-related sponsor, and a small one. Here we are, starting from scratch with a smaller version, and in two months we've already got Red Bull involved and Michelin involved. Dorna can do something really huge here."
However, like most game developers and publishers that are moving into esports today, Milestone doesn't necessarily view the MotoGP Esport Championship as a means to generate significant money. For the studio, it's a way to keep its title on shelves for longer,
"This is something that will probably change over the years," Loiudice concludes. "Right now this is a big window for the game. Dorna is pushing and communicating the game so much, which will definitely help us to sell the game. It also gives the title a longer life. Basically, this is a yearly franchise. It usually sells a lot initially, but then quickly dies down because there's another one out in June 2018. But with this one, we will be selling the game right up until November, because there is a lot of communication and events going on. We have events in September and October. So this is a great way for us to sell the game better.
"But, of course, in the future, this [esports initiative] might become another source of revenue in another sense. So getting sponsors for the Milestone side, for instance. But this year it's more about communication."