As competitive gaming has gone from computer labs and bedrooms to LAN parties and massive, arena-filling showdowns, we sometimes idly ask ourselves the question: “can anything stop the rise of esports?” As esports grow, fan bases are getting larger and more involved just like any other sport. Major teams are selling merchandise like hot cakes. Fan streamers froth at the mouth with the excitement of the big matches, analysing the best strategies and moments. Now, some prominent gaming teams are now helping to fuel this via fan tokens.
If the phrase ‘fan tokens’ made you raise an eyebrow as if you were Dwayne Johnson circa 1998 (an increasingly dated reference, we know), here’s a quick explanation. The idea of fan tokens is to allow fans to support and interact with the team and other fans using cryptographic tokens akin to cryptocurrencies. They’re prevalent in soccer, where many of the world’s biggest clubs have issued tokens and increased their digital reach as well as their bank balance.
The value of a team’s tokens, denominated in the Chiliz token created by the same platform, varies just like their stock or any other asset. Unlike purchasing an esports team stock such as that of the French firecrackers, Team Vitality, purchasing their $VIT fan tokens allows a fan to do things like take part in competitions, giveaways, get early access to news and vote on team decisions. In other words, think of it as a tokenomics-style club membership that you own instead of making a regular subscription. On this platform you really do vote with your wallet, as more tokens mean you get a bigger say in the votes.
What Are the Teams?
So what teams have launched fan tokens? Well Vitality is certainly a phenomenon, with rosters for nine different games at the time of writing. Though based in France, their players are really pan-European. Russian sensations Natus Vincere ($NAVI) are equally international in many of their rosters, of which there are twelve in total, and which are almost exclusively shooters.
Maybe the most impressive and forward-thinking esports team with a fan token is OG ($OG), which was fittingly also the first to launch one on Binance. The team known for its multiple tournament-winning Dota 2 record has leveraged its enormous fan base to go all in on blockchain-backed assets, also becoming the first esports team to launch NFTs in 2021 (that last venture was certainly successful, instantly selling out and making almost $1 million over three drops).
British team Endpoint ($ENDCEX) don’t take themselves too seriously, with a fun and irreverent social media presence that belies their seriousness when it comes to CS:GO and Quake. Endpoint recently held a fan token poll which decided that Rocket League star Seikoo would be the subject of a documentary. But their aesthetics and fanbase are no match for Team Heretics ($TH), whose colorful style has regularly lit up the tournament boards of modern shooters since they were established in 2016.
Finally, the Alliance ($ALL) is a Nordic-centred brand that seems to embrace creativity and innovation, which was the reason for that shock win when they went very quickly from newly established team to Dota 2 champions at The International 2013. They have been one to watch ever since, with a dedicated Streamers Division focusing on different aspects of gaming and nerd culture more generally.
All told this is an exciting moment for the future of fan participation in gaming sports, with a lot of potential to involve fans more dynamically than in the past, reflecting some of the promise that the web has always shown.