How Investors Can Cash in on the Growing eSports Space
As the digital realm and technology advances, new investment arenas and spaces open up. One of these spaces currently growing is eSports — essentially, video game competitions and tournaments. eSports have been around since the advent of online multiplayer gaming. However, it's only in recent years that the community has inched closer and closer to mainstream. It's still has a pretty niche audience, but it's growing. About 22 percent of male millennials watch eSports. This category even prefers to watch gaming tournaments over traditional sports. It's estimated that by 2020, 500 million people will be watching eSports tournaments. So how can investors cash in?
One example of an investment is the University of California, Irvine's eSports scholarship program. Just like traditional sports teams, the University is offering scholarships to students who will play on an eSports team representing the school. The school has also opened the first ever public college eSports arena.
However, the main avenues for investment will be outside of higher education. Currently, the main avenues for investors are in streaming, teams, and game development.
YouTube, Twitch, and even ESPN are getting in on the streaming game. ESPN has an eSports hub offering the latest coverage of leagues, tournaments, and standings. The largest prize pool ever in eSports was for Dota 2 league tournament play in 2017. Prizes totaled nearly $25 million. The most popular game streaming service Twitch was bought by Amazon for nearly $1 billion and now hosts more than 100 million users. YouTube has also launched YouTube Gaming in an effort to create a one-stop shop for gaming content — supported by advertising dollars. YouTube already hosts many, many hours of gaming content, but committing further to game streams positions the platform as a direct competitor to Twitch.
However, buying stock in these companies won't necessarily reap dividends strictly from eSports. The money they are making from gaming will likely be a very small portion of revenue for their parent companies. And forget trying to start a streaming platform of your own. Competing with these giants is not a smart play.
Leagues are a possible avenue. Just like physical sports, eSports form their own leagues to create regional, national, and worldwide championships. The two biggest leagues, in terms of prize money, are
Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. But these are both privately held by the Valve Corporation.
But there are plenty of publicly traded companies that you can buy stock in. This includes Riot Games, a division of Tencent Holdings, the world's largest video game publisher by revenue. It also created League of Legends, which paid over $5 million in prizes for play in its 2016 World Championship. (This is also the same league that UC Irvine offers scholarships for students to play in.) In 2017, Activision Blizzard launched a new league in Overwatch. Several big sports team owners as well as industry veterans had purchased the rights for its teams. A total of 14 teams were created. The teams sold for $20 million each. Revenue streams from eSports leagues are similar to traditional sports: advertising, media rights, ticket sales, and sponsorships.
Finally, there's game development and publishers. You can't have an eSports league without a game. As such, publishers and developers have the most to gain from this new arena. Publishers make money off of individual game sales as well as micro-transactions and extra downloadable content. Revenues will likely increase along with the increased interest in eSports. And as owners of the games and intellectual property they represent, publishers can generate revenue from their own eSports leagues.
According to a report from Juniper Research, revenue from eSports in 2017 was expected to total $1.8 billion. By 2021, that number is expected to reach $3.5 billion. With this looming opportunity, investors would be smart to get involved in some way, shape, or form.
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Looking for a job? In addition to encountering those annoying never-ending job interviews you may find yourself face-to-face with an artificial intelligence bot.
Companies worldwide increasingly use artificial intelligence tools and analytics in employment decision-making – from parsing through resumes and screening candidates to automated assessments and digital interviews. But recent studies claim that AI does more harm than good.
While AI screening tools were developed to save companies time and money, they’ve been criticized for placing women and people of color at a disadvantage. The problem is that many companies lack appreciable diversity in their data set, making it impossible for an algorithm to know how people from underrepresented groups have performed in the past. As a result, the algorithm will be biased toward the data available and compare future candidates to that archetype.
The City’s Automated Employment Decision Tools (AEDT) law is designed to offset the potential misuse of AI and protect job candidates against discrimination. It was enforced on July 5th, 2023 in New York City - with other cities and states expected to gradually follow suit. Employers must now inform applicants when and how they encounter AI. Furthermore, companies have to commission a third-party audit of the AI software used, and publish a summary of the results to prove that their systems aren’t racist or sexist. Job applicants are able to request information regarding what data is collected and analyzed by the AI. Violations of the law can result in fines of up to $1,500.
Replacing Human Hiring Decisions
However, should a job applicant want to opt-out of such impersonal judgement by a bot, the new law's scope is quite limited.
While the law specifies that instructions for requesting an alternative selection process must be included in the AI screening disclosure, companies aren't actually required to use other screening methods. Not to mention that the law only applies to AI in hiring and not any other employment decisions. It also wouldn't apply if the AI, for example, flags candidates with relevant experience, but a human then reviews all applications, making the ultimate hiring decision.
Some civil rights advocates and public interest groups argue that the law isn’t extensive enough and that it’s even unenforceable. On the other hand, businesses say that it’s impractical, costly, and burdensome, and that independent audits aren’t feasible.
Responsible use of AI in hiring
Although this law may be a good first attempt to assign more regulatory guardrails around AI, it remains to be seen if it ensures the responsible use of AI in hiring processes. At the end of the day, perhaps recruiting talent should remain a human-made decision.
The good news is that AI can help companies without harming potential job candidates in many ways – such as connecting new employees with internal organizational information and company benefits during onboarding. Or helping employees to do their jobs more effectively rather than replacing them.
There’s all this talk about solo travel. And for good reason — no wasting precious time waiting for others to get their act together, take the plans out of the group chat and actually buy the tickets. Going solo, you can be spontaneous. You can plan your trips according to your precise tastes. You can hop on any flight and fly awayyyyyy.
But what if each time you flew you’d get a free ticket? That’s what you get with the Southwest Companion Pass.
Award status, upgrades, lounge access — there are many perks in the frequent flier game. But one of the coveted holy grails is the Southwest Companion Pass.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Companion Pass is part of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program. You get to choose one person to be your “companion,” and they fly with you for free (plus some taxes and fees) on every flight. That’s right. Two for the price of one. That’s half off each ticket if you split it! Whether you’re flying with a partner, family member, friend, or anyone else, they can tag along for free.
And it gets better: once you earn the pass, you can reap the rewards for that full calendar year … AND the next. That’s why people go mad trying to earn a companion pass during the early months of the year. The sooner you qualify, the longer you can use it.
There are also no blackout dates. There are no limits. And if you didn’t purchase the ticket (think: work travel, your companion, or a generous benefactor), there are no restrictions! As long as you’re the one on the plane, your companion can also … be on the plane.
You can also switch out your designated companion 3x a year. So, no need to stay in a relationship simply to get the most out of your companion pass! Ghost and fly away — with a whole new companion!
If this sounds too good to be true — it’s not. But there is one small catch. It’s kinda tough to earn this mega reward.
How to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass?
You can qualify for the pass in one of two ways:
- Fly 100 qualifying one-way flights
- Earn 135,000 qualifying points in a calendar year.
Clearly, this is no small feat — especially if you’re trying to qualify ASAP.
So how do you actually earn the Southwest Companion Pass?
Don’t worry, there’s a path to earning this amazing reward without climbing on 100 flights or spending an exorbitant amount of money.
Earning 135K reward points may seem completely impossible, but it’s easier than it sounds. Simply sign up for a Southwest Credit Card and turn those spending habits into a rapid rewards account. Through the Rewards Priority Credit Card, earn points when using local transit and commuting, plus score major points and miles whenever you spend.
Stay with me here. This is not some scheme to get you into credit card debt. Many airline cards come with potential savings, giantic rewards, awarding you points, and cashback with every purchase you make that can be redeemed for travel. And often they can come with passive sign-up bonuses. If you spend a specific amount of money within a certain timeframe of opening the card, you can be in for a windfall of points.
Now that’s where the companion pass comes in:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Priority Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
- Southwest Performance Business Credit Card
Southwest has three personal cards and a business card. Each of these cards offers rewards between 30K-80K points. In the past, people could open two cards and get a bonus that granted enough points to almost meet the minimum. However, with new restrictions on personal cards, you can only get one bonus every 24 months. Boo!
However, this doesn’t apply to business cards. If you’re eligible, have good credit, and not likely to spiral into insane credit card debt, you can open a business card and a personal card, and accrue 100K+ points. The Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card will get you points after you spend money in no time.
Now to earn the rest of them.
The secret to gaining these credit card points is to plan your card sign-ups around big purchases. Just before a recent move, I opened a card . . . and the rewards came rolling in — a small balm to ease the pain of how exorbitant moving can be.
Put everyday spend — especially big purchases or bulk items — on your Southwest credit card and watch your award points quickly add up. Typically, you earn 1 point per $1 spent on your Southwest card and 2 points per $1 on actual Southwest purchases.
But there are other ways to earn points, including:
- Flying Southwest: Booking travel on Southwest earns more points. The cost of this travel will be worth it with your companion pass
- Shopping from Rapid Rewards Partners: Purchases with Southwest’s “Home & Lifestyle” and “Shop and Dine” Partners also earn Companion Pass qualifying points. While you shouldn’t make gratuitous purchases, browse Southwest’s partners to see if you could earn extra points for items you'd be purchasing anyway. All this, simply from enrolling in their Dining Program and shopping with their partners.
So there you have it! And since it’s almost Spring, get to earning and soon you’ll be flying two for the price of one!