It’s time to take to the ice in style… Virtually.
In (another) landmark move for esports, the NHL has announced a lucrative, multi-year deal with gaming industry giants, DreamHack. This deal outlines a groundbreaking plan that will see DreamHack’s Sports Games department produce the NHL Gaming World Championship (NHLGWC) for the next few years. The NHLGWC is a considerably young competition, with the first iteration having taken place in 2018.
When the inaugural season of the NHLGWC took place, it was a relatively underspoken tournament that was focused around an admittedly niche title. However, it was big enough to draw attention from MTG, which hosted the European regional finals for the competition. Today, MTG is arguably the biggest name in the esports industry, boasting total ownership of DreamHack, and majority ownership of ESL.
Now, MTG is leveraging the full force of its DreamHack Sports Games product to bring the NHL Gaming World Championship to bigger, broader audiences than ever before. It’s an incredibly progressive move, with MTG and DreamHack expanding their portfolios even further for the benefit of esports fans the world over. It can be argued that the NHL titles aren’t all that popular where sports games are concerned, but there’s enough of a draw there for DreamHack to see the benefit in producing the NHLGWC.
Arda Ocal, an award-winning ESPN presenter, sees nothing but good things coming from this partnership:
DreamHack Sports Games has already launched a golfing esports platform, the European eTour, and is seeking to create a FIFA esports fantasy title. The Swedish organisation has deep roots in gaming, having been founded almost three decades ago, and is now making huge waves in the sports gaming vertical. In fact, that’s exactly what the CEO of DreamHack Sports Games, Roger Lodewick, had to say in a statement:
“This cooperation with the NHL is a landmark moment for us. It is a confirmation of the innovative work everyone at DreamHack Sports Games has been doing in the Sport Gaming vertical. We’re genuinely proud and privileged to work with the NHL team.”
Last year’s NHLGWC was impacted quite heavily by COVID-19, but it still played out to the pleasure of fans the world over. In fact, many NHL teams actively resorted to esports variants of the League to keep fans on-point during the unfortunate shut-down of sporting events. It seemed that almost overnight, sport in all aspects was switched off, and the hundreds of millions of soccer, basketball, hockey, and racing fans were left standing out in the cold.
So, in response, professional NHL teams stepped up and started hosting online variants of their traditional match-ups, to great success. These days, there’s actually a fine line between real sports and esports, particularly in how they’re advertised, hosted, and ultimately, played. In 2020, Minnesota Wild’s Senior Manager of Events and Brand Activation, Jim Vanek, said:
“The market for this is relatively small, but it’s growing. But the people who are interested branch out and consume anything and everything available.”
It seems that DreamHack has also recognised this trend where the NHL is concerned, and they’ve made a considerably lucrative investment. It’s extremely similar to the recent news that the BBC will broadcast the EU Qualifiers for the FIFA 21 Global Series event. As esports grows, so too does the number of organisations seeking to broadcast and promote these events.
The 2021 NHL Gaming World Championship is expected to launch sometime in March of 2021, and it promises to be an exciting season.