Esports have become a major part of the global entertainment industry and now even traditional sports organisations such as New Zealand Rugby (NZR) are jumping on board.
With many of New Zealand's professional rugby players also active gamers, NZR have explored opportunities to reach out to the gaming audience in a way to connect with young fans.
Earlier this month, NZR made their first official collaboration with leading Esports media company, Let's Play Live (LPL), with some of New Zealand's top rugby players appearing on LPL's weekly show The Night Squad.
All Blacks TJ Perenara and Rieko Ioane along with Black Fern Eloise Blackwell were aired live playing Fortnite on streaming platform Twitch, the All Blacks Facebook page, and the New Zealand Herald website.
Following the success of the event, NZR Head of Marketing Brand and Retail Todd Barberel said that NZR are now actively working toward establishing its next steps in connecting to the Esports sector.
Although no official plans have yet been made, Barberel said it's likely that we will see more All Blacks and Black Ferns behind a console in the near future.
"You only need to look globally at the growth of gaming and Esports to understand that it's attracting a lot of eyeballs around the world," Barberel told the Herald.
"It's not always about what's going on at the elite level, it's about how Esports can help grow and increase participation in the sport at grassroots, and if it can, it would be a fantastic result."
"We've got the Black Ferns and the All Blacks coming together in August for a doubleheader and I think that would be the natural time for us to collaborate again with Let's Play Live to further test the water and develop an understanding on its potential."
"One thing that we're really conscious of is that this is not just a one-off, it has to be almost part of an integrated program that would roll forward, so watch this space … we're quite excited about it."
Attracting more than 35,000 viewers, the event provided valuable information for NZR to which Barberel said proved the potential of connecting with ESports audiences.
"One of the key stats for us was that it was being streamed on NZ Herald as well as on All Blacks Facebook but the majority of viewers connected on the Twitch page which tells us that we are talking mostly to a gaming audience," he said.
"For us, that helps to expose our brand and our players to an audience that on any other day may not have that specific exposure."
"I think it's created a bit of interest and some talk that goes back to those key things that we want to promote, it's a fun and enjoyable pursuit to be done, but it's about the moderation."
Barberel believed that the gaming sector had an important audience that highlighted the changes in which people now consume entertainment.
He said that NZR considered ESports as a way to continue keeping Rugby relevant for young people and to influence the way in which gaming is ultimately viewed.
"Sport has quite a traditional fan base and if we keep marketing to the same people where's the growth going to come from?"
"Rugby is current and we understand the trends in society and the way in which people are consuming entertainment these days, but at the same time we can hopefully encourage people in ESports who are not involved in rugby to take a look at our brand."
"It is also a chance for us to talk about the idea that gaming is not something that people need to be fearful of, but like anything, it needs to be done in moderation."
"It's about how we can make sure we show that rugby is just as relevant as gaming and to ensure young people have the opportunity to consider rugby as a sport."