Agoracom Blog

#Mets’ #Wilpons on brink of championship – in #Esports $GMBL $ATVI $TTWO $GAME $ $TCEHF $ $

Posted by AGORACOM-JC at 4:15 PM on Monday, July 16th, 2018
  • Mets’ Wilpons on brink of championship – in esports
  • Though Wilpon is hardly a hardcore gamer, he and his family are showing a magic touch in the world of esports

NEW YORK — Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon may not need Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard to bring a championship to New York this year.

Though Wilpon is hardly a hardcore gamer, he and his family are showing a magic touch in the world of esports.

The Wilpon-owned New York Excelsior have been a juggernaut during the inaugural season of the Overwatch League, and people around the league are praising the Wilpons for their management of the video game club. Their roster, comprised mostly of South Korean players, is the top seed entering the playoffs and a heavy favourite to win the league’s first Grand Finals in Brooklyn on July 27 and 28.

Wilpon has never actually played Overwatch — “I’m not sure I could figure that one out,” he joked in an interview with The Associated Press — but he and some younger relatives have pieced together a winner in an ambitious first-year league.

While the deGrominator and Thor haven’t been able to keep the Mets competitive this summer, stars with nicknames like JJoNak, Pine and Saebyeolbe have lifted the Excelsior — better known as NYXL — to a first-round bye before their playoff opener Wednesday.

Overwatch League commissioner Nate Nanzer says Wilpon has driven NYXL’s success by “rolling up his sleeves,” learning about the industry and finding the right people to guide NYXL day by day. Fans and analysts have praised NYXL’s stability and leadership, something Nanzer says starts with Wilpon. That may be surprising to Mets fans, who have assailed Wilpon for his handling of the Mets since rising to COO in 2002.

Wilpon sees another secret fueling NYXL’s rise: “Probably because I stayed out of the way.”

Indeed, Wilpon’s cousin Scott Wilpon, cousin-in-law Farzam Kamel, and Rohit Gupta have mostly run the show since family-owned Sterling Equities invested in the club last year. Scott Wilpon is also a partner at Sterling, and Kamel and Gupta are partners at subsidiary Sterling VC.

Sterling spent years eyeing an esports investment without pulling the trigger. The numbers were there — market research firm Newzoo projected a total esports audience of 380 million people in 2018 with $900 million in industry revenue. But Sterling wasn’t comfortable enough with the structure of the esports universe to buy in.

Then Jeff Wilpon got a call from an old friend.

Bobby Kotick has known Jeff Wilpon since grade school and is now the CEO of Activision Blizzard, the entertainment company behind the Overwatch video game —a first-person shooter launched in 2016 that pits two teams of six players competing over various objectives.

Blizzard wanted the Overwatch League to feature city-based franchises in a structure familiar to North American sports fans, but on an international scale. That was attractive to the Wilpons, and when they heard Patriots owner Robert Kraft was on board for a Boston franchise, they decided the time was right, paying a reported $20 million for a New York club. Sterling was announced as New York’s ownership group last July.

Franchise in hand, the next step was actually finding players. Good scouting was going to be crucial, but unlike in baseball, the club didn’t have an army of bird dog scouts ready to sniff out top prospects.

The Wilpons turned their attention to South Korea, a video-game hotbed where Overwatch has been popular since its release in 2016. Gupta flew to Korea to explore the scene, while in New York, Scott Wilpon and Kamel worked overnight schedules for two months to aid the search despite the time difference.

“We spent a lot of time talking to a lot of people,” Scott Wilpon said. “And we just pounded the pavement until we got to the people who really knew what was going on in the esports space.”

The hunt led them to LuxuryWatch Blue, a successful Overwatch club on a major Korean circuit. The players were skilled, and their coaches had an impressive grasp on the game’s analytics — yes, esports has sabermetrics, too.

NYXL signed nearly the entire roster, including the coaches, and supplemented it with a few pieces. Perhaps most crucially, the LuxuryWatch imports included hyped prospect Sung-Hyeon “JJoNak” Bang. The 18-year-old never got in a match for LuxuryWatch, but as a rookie with NYXL, he was named regular season MVP. He’s fit in seamlessly with the LuxuryWatch veterans to form an Overwatch super team.


Comments are closed.