Forbes has released a new version of its Most Valuable Esports Companies report, highlighting a 46% increase in value for the top 10 teams since the business publication last compiled its list in 2020. Combined valuations for the esports orgs now total $3.5 billion, with TSM FTX growing 32% ($540 million) and once again taking the top spot. It was 100 Thieves that experienced the biggest increase, however, growing its valuation by 142% to take second place ($460 million).

While these valuations are nothing to sneeze at, the esports industry continues to face numerous challenges around monetization. Interpret has highlighted previously how raw competition in esports isn’t necessarily the money maker that it is in traditional sports. Even the world’s top esport, League of Legends, remains unprofitable. As Forbes succinctly explains, “Esports is a tough business, and in some ways getting tougher, and the rise in these companies’ valuations is largely being driven not by their esports teams but by their other divisions.”

This point was driven home by an anonymous esports team executive who confessed to the publication, “There’s a broad-based agreement that esports as a stand-alone doesn’t work as a business.”

The result is that the most successful esports orgs have largely pivoted their strategies to emphasize content creation, merchandizing, partnerships with big brands, and offering custom gaming hardware. The teams that have been able to blend gaming culture with fashion, music, urban lifestyle, and hot new tech like crypto are the ones that are coming out on top. With TSM FTX currently seeing the biggest valuation, it’s clear that its affiliation with the leading crypto exchange has bolstered its prospects. In fact, Interpret’s New Media Measure® reveals that one quarter of gamers are somewhat or very likely to invest in a cryptocurrency through a company that sponsors a sports or esports team.

Interpret data also shows how lucrative sponsorships can be for these top teams, as 37% of gamers in the US state that they are somewhat or very likely to buy a product because its maker sponsored their favorite esports team. Just one quarter earlier, that figure stood at 17% of gamers. 22% of gamers also state being likely to learn about a product because its maker sponsored their esports team. This level of engagement is a marketer’s dream, and it’s a result of carefully crafted content creation that resonates with the gaming audience. It’s why Team Liquid (No. 3 on Forbes’ list) recently made some key hires to double down on content creation “beyond esports and competition.”

Ready to level up your career? Check out Interpret’s Careers page for current openings and join our squad of Fun Scientists!