The business of South African esports – Mettlestate member monetisation
Mettlestate launches VIP membership
I’ve not really focused myself on the business aspect of South African esports for some time. I’ve been busy with work and dealing with a pandemic so I spent a lot less time focusing on how the industry was attempting to grow or how new income streams were being formed. However, something caught my eye and I wanted to talk about it, because I thought it was interesting.
Mettlestate launches VIP membership
Mettlestate started in 2017 and at the time I was part of their first tournament and got to tease to what was coming in the Forge:
Since then they’ve had a few shuffles and changes. Learning as they went. In early 2021 they announced a new partnership with nxD, a digital media agency. With that partnership the tournament organiser announced weekly cash cups in a host of different gaming titles. Players registered, for free, on their website and could compete in short format competitions on weekends for cash prizes. They had nearly every competitive game make an appearance. Alongside the cash cups there are also Super and Ultra Cups that run. They’re not the only tournament organiser in South Africa running weekly events, or utilising a sign up system for competitions, but I have been watching the way they’ve developed that online experience over the past few months and I’ve found it interesting.
Gamification of… gaming?
Again, not an original concept and one used by many tournament organisers, but registering to the Mettlestate website to compete isn’t your only engagement with the brand. There are opportunities to earn points on the site doing things like sharing posts to social media or just filling in a survey. Along with points there are spot prizes to certain members who are active on the portal. This is important. In esports a very select few are able to take home the prize money and the top spot – so how do you keep ALL competitors motivated and returning for more? I think this gamification system works well.
Mettlestate took it a step further though by then introducing a content hub to their offering, with a featured streamers section and other content now featuring, so players and users on the platform had more to engage with. They followed this up with an online shop where gaming fans could purchase various geek merchandise and even Vape liquid. I’ve been watching this for a while because I think stretching out to find various veins to enter into was smart, but their latest move is ACTUALLY what I want to talk about.
The Mettlestate VIP membership
Most games and game developers have a very strict no pay to play policy when it comes to third parties hosting esports tournaments utilising their title (despite a few South African tournament organisers ignoring this). So how do we keep financing esports in South Africa? For tournament organisers they need to get brands to sponsor their events. However, I just don’t know how sustainable that business model could be long term. You’re relying on a third party to keep your brand afloat, for the most part. While Mettlestate does this, they’ve also announced a micro transaction type model on their site that I thought was very clever.
Anyone is able to sign up to play in the cups and tournaments, while engaging on the Mettlestate platform, however there is now a VIP membership offering.
In short, for R45 per month, a Mettlestate VIP member gets the following perks:
Play in free Cups, Leagues and Tournaments
Double Prize Pools
Priority Event Signup
100 Leaderboard Points
So what does this mean? If you’re registered on the website and pay R45 you get a few extras. None of them will impact the integrity of the tournaments or go against game developer esports rules, but it does allow a new income stream for Mettlestate. I think the perks are pretty impressive as well. Priority event sign up means you’ll get signed up to tournaments and games, meaning you never miss out when lobbies are full. The double prize pools is the kicker though. That ultimately means if you win, say R500, in a weekly cash cup, you’ll effectively get R1000 as a VIP membership. According to Mettlestate, they currently have around 100 000 gamers registered on their website. So you can do the math, if even 1% of those members took out a VIP membership there would be an income stream that could cover an employee’s salary or finance more tournaments.
While I haven’t spoken to the Mettlestate team, I’d presume the goal here is to allow this new income stream to assist in financing day to day operations and potentially the weekly competitions – allowing the core team to focus on bigger events that ultimately are run for sponsors – which is the core business of the tournament organiser. Barry “Anthrax” Louzada of Mettlestate had made the following comment:
As Mettlestate grows we want nothing more than to give back to our gamers. One of those things is our VIP package which helps our gamers earn more money and extra benefits for themselves. This is just the start of so much more to come, we are only getting started!
I really like this idea. I like the model of creating a space for gamers, even if they aren’t the best esports players, to still feel part of, active and involved in the community – with the opportunity to win in a host of ways. I also like the idea of the monthly subscription IF you choose it, but it still giving some rewards. South African esports has struggled with retention for awhile, in my experience, so hopefully this is a step to solving that problem. I’m sure the other tournament organisers will have similar concepts or ideas soon so I’ll be interested to see how this shakes up the local scene!
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