Beyond the Game: Disney Doubles Down on Esports

This article is part of our Beyond the Game series.

Well, this was unexpected. Disney announced on Wednesday that they are planning to build an esports arena in Orlando. As a huge Disney fan myself, I figured it was time to fire up the old Skype chat to see what everyone else thought about the news. Spoiler alert: no one was as happy as I was.

Wyatt Lyles: So I love Disney and think this is amazing. But I'd rather not just sit here and gush. What do you guys think?

Britton Hess: I think it's interesting 1) because ESPN and 2) because Disney has a greater investment in games (especially mobile) than people realize.

James Bates: I'll join in. Though that might make the conversation a bit more radicalized.

Brendan Hickey: Does this mean Star Wars Battlefront is the next esport?

Wyatt: Okay so James:, let's kick off the real conversation with something radical. Give us something juicy.

James: Hang on, gotta finish showing the monster filth the righteousness of our glorious Emperor, Emyhr Van Emreis. This will take but another 5 minutes.

*crickets from Skype chat*

Wyatt: I had to google that cause I had no clue what the hell that was.

Brendan: Same.

Mountain View

James: Excellent. Another fool dispatched in the name of our glorious emperor, Emyhr Van Emreis, long may he reign.

*more crickets from chat*

James: Anyways. Esports Arena in Orlando, that no one but Disney gives a shit about. Let's talk about it.

Wyatt: Why would no one give a shit about it? It's Disney and esports! Two of the greatest things on the planet!

James: It's simple: Orlando is a horrible location for an esports arena.

Wyatt: But they've got the World Wide Sports Complex there, too. So it only makes sense. Not to mention that CoD Champs is in Orlando this year. So clearly it's somewhat of a destination. Plus, Disneyworld.

James: Florida is one of the oldest states in the world, Disneyland attracts more tourists than Disneyworld does, and the climate in Florida is unappealing to pretty much everyone you would want to try to come to your esports arena.

Britton: I think that further enforces a lot of mainstream entities belief that esports are some sort of side show or gimmick. Considering Vegas is heavily investing, now Orlando.

Wyatt: And esports is global now. So it being a tourist place could be good. Not to mention that it's inside, so heat won't be an issue.

James: You can keep heat out. You can't keep humidity out. Sending a bunch of Dutch or Korean guys to an event hosted in a bayou isn't going to go well

Brendan: You're right, this is how NA wins Worlds.

James: The more important issue is, to me, the fact that it's about as far from all the main esports companies in the US you can get without going to Maine.

Britton: Disney isn't some start up trying to generate hype. They can literally make Orlando a hub. ELEAGUE is in Atlanta, and now that event is massive.

James: Sure, but no one actually GOES to ELEAGUE. At least not on the level that they do, say, the NA LCS or TI.

Britton: But if you are going to have a space for live events, it should be somewhere where people are looking for something to do. Like Orlando.

Wyatt: Well, I think more of the big deal with this is that Disney is basically doubling down on esports.

Britton: Think from Disney's perspective. Esports is a new media market that is exploding. Disney has infinite dollars. Disney has a location that attracts millions of people yearly.

Wyatt: The story basically writes itself! Well I think the moral of the story for me is that Disney is putting a real stake into esports. Sure, they own ESPN, but this is a physical expression of their faith in esports. It may have its hiccups, but more places for esports events can't be a bad thing. Especially when the Happiest Place on Earth in involved.

James: I think my takeaway from all this is that the arena is certainly interesting and, in my opinion, a waste of resources, but that we won't know what it really means until Disney makes clear what they really hope to do in esports.

Brendan: Give me a game where I can battle Moana and Iron Man to the death.

James: A Marvel MOBA might work, I guess?

Britton: Luke Skywalker best Top Laner in the lanegame. Chewie as Urgot. Mickey should always win laning phase versus Darth Maul.

Wyatt: Now that is an idea that I can get behind.

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